Ottawa To Install Needle-Dispensing Vending Machines To Reduce HIV, Hepatitis C Transmission

The health department of Ottawa is hoping to reduce HIV and Hepatitis C transmission.  They are planning to install vending machines throughout the city that would dispense needles and crack pipes to drug users. 

Ottawa Public Health's pilot project includes secured machines to be placed outside existing downtown health centres, CBC News reported.  Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's deputy medical office of health, says that this initiative was launched after public consultations found that more resources were needed during off-hours for those who inject and smoke drugs.

'This Is A Way To Reach Those With The Greatest Needs'

According to Yahoo News, people who use needle-exchange services will get a token, which they can then use to access sterile drug supplies in the evening and weekends.  "We haven't decided on the locations yet, but we're looking at placing them where we know there is drug use and where people are seeking service after-hours," Etches said.  "There are people who aren't accessing services, so this is a way to reach those with the greatest needs."

The program, which is funded by Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, will probably begin roll out by next month.  Etches said that there is no price tag yet, but the total for all the machines could be about $25,000. 

Critics Say That This Move Could Give Drug Users Easy Access

Not everyone is pleased with this move, and some people say that this move could only make the existing problems on drug addiction worse.  Critics say that drug users can have easy access, which might encourage others to do illegal drugs, too.

To prevent supplies from going to the wrong people, and to encourage drug users to continue visiting health counsellors, Ottawa City Health said the vending machines would only work using the special tokens.  This means that drug users would be required to visit a harm reduction program to get the tokens. 

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