Insite, a health center in Vancouver, offers clean needles to drug addicts. Upon first read, this may seem backwards, but the health center claims they are simultaneously fighting AIDS.
In today’s New York Times, Donald McNeil Jr. reports that most in the center are not suffering from HIV, and “are drug addicts, injecting themselves with whatever they just bought on the street – under the eyes of a nurse here at Insite, the only ‘safe injection site’ in North America”.
In an interesting video, McNeil describes the fear that many users have of detox, and that the center is helping these people avoid a sickness they might encounter from drug withdrawal.
The head doctor of the center stated that they established Insite because they found a direct correlation between high amounts of drug users and a surge of HIV infections, affecting 20-30% of the population. They believe that giving the drug addicts clean materials (and even nurses to help the addicts inject themselves) is a way to treat AIDS.
A young nurse in the video said, “People are going to use drugs whether they have clean equipment or not.” I do think that drug addicts will go far out of their way to find and inject themselves with drugs, but won’t they be even more tempted to feed their addiction when they have at hand all the clean needles they could need?
Any strides toward treatment of HIV are productive, but I am hesitant to support this one. The area where this center is located in Vancouver is known for the high percentages of drug addicts, and this does not seem to be an effective way to address that issue. The head doctor of Insite said that he exposes the users to health care and gives them the option for detox. This seems nice and dandy, but will they really want to detox when they could just continue using clean needles and any drugs they find?