We support people who inject drugs to change their behaviour and reduce their risk of blood borne virus transmission or other injecting related harms.
Drug ARM operates one Clean Needle Program from our Warradale office. Our team provide sterile injecting equipment, sharps disposal containers and waste disposal facilities to improve health outcomes. In partnership with peer workers from Hepatitis SA, our specialist team also provide information, education and confidential referrals.
In five minutes, I was told more about Hep C support and treatment than anybody else had ever helped me with and without judgment.
drug arm client
This is an excellent service provided by the Warradale Clean Needle Program (CNP). I come here because there is no judgement.
drug arm client
My counsellor offered solutions to my problems, seemed interested, and was very lovely, compassionate and caring. Because of her knowledge it has resulted in me becoming a CAFSS client - I came into Drug ARM as a CNP client. I envisage this step as a positive move forward in reducing my usage, gaining more insight to my own reasons for using.
drug arm client
Needle and Syringe Programs are an important public health measure. These Programs have prevented people from sharing injecting equipment and have thus prevented the spread of HIV among people who inject drugs. This has meant that in Australia, HIV infection is very rare among both injecting drug users and the wider community. In some countries, such as the United States and parts of Europe, where Needle and Syringe Programs were not established in time, HIV spread rapidly among injecting drug users and to the wider community through sexual contact. In Australia, the level of HIV infection among people who inject drugs has remained around 1%, compared to other countries with levels over 50%.
Government and non-government organisations provide people who inject drugs with access to needles and syringes to prevent the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C infections. Australian Governments invested $130 million in Needle and Syringe Programs between 1991 and 2000. This resulted in the prevention of an estimated 25,000 cases of HIV and 21,000 cases of hepatitis C. The savings to the health system in avoided treatment costs over a lifetime are estimated to be between $2.4 and $7.7 billion.
Needle and Syringe Programs provide injecting equipment, education and information on reducing drug use and referral to drug treatment, medical care and legal and social services. Staff can also provide condoms and safe sex education.
Equipment supplied at Needle and Syringe Programs includes needles and syringes, swabs, vials of sterile water and ‘sharps bins’ for the safe disposal of used injecting equipment. Needle and Syringe Programs are also an important point for collection of used injecting equipment.
Needle and Syringe Programs provide support services to families of people who inject drugs.
Needle and Syringe Programs do not supply drugs or allow people to inject drugs on the premises.
Despite education about the harms associated with drug use and information on drug treatment programs many people will continue to inject drugs. One of the major risks associated with injecting drugs is HIV and hepatitis C infection. Needle and Syringe Programs are one of the main strategies we have to prevent the spread of HIV infection among people who inject drugs. The aim of Needle and Syringe programs is to reduce the harms associated with drug injecting and benefit both drug users and the wider community.
Needle and Syringe Programs also provide counselling services and actively encourage clients into drug treatment programs.
Needle and Syringe Programs are established in areas where injecting drug use is already occurring. No study has ever found that the introduction of a Needle and Syringe Program contributed to increased levels of injecting drug use. In fact, studies have reported decreases in drug use following the introduction of Needle and Syringe Programs because they act as a referral point for clients wanting to begin drug treatment.
In Australia, the proportion of the population who reported having recently injected drugs remained stable between 1995 and 2001 and decreased in 2004. If Needle and Syringe Programs encouraged injecting drug use, it would be expected that, all other factors remaining equal, the proportion of the population who reported having recently injected drugs would have increased rather than decreased.
A World Health Organization review concluded that Needle and Syringe Programs do not encourage more frequent injection of drugs or increase the recruitment of new injecting drug users. Injecting drug users who attend Needle and Syringe Programs are more likely to reduce or stop injecting drugs than those who do not attend.
Some drug users inject in public places like toilets because they are young, homeless, or are very dependent on drugs and inject immediately after buying them. Drug users may also throw their injecting equipment away because they fear the police could use this equipment as evidence of drug use and arrest them. However, just as the vast majority of people do not litter, most people who inject drugs dispose of their used needles and syringes safely.
Some large cities have ‘hot spots’ where drug use and dealing are more visible. People who come from other areas to buy drugs may dispose of their equipment inappropriately which makes the problem of discarded needles and syringes in hot spots worse. Needle and Syringe workers visit many hot spots to collect discarded injecting equipment.
Studies conducted in Australia and overseas have found there is no increase in the discarding of used needles and syringes following the introduction of Needle and Syringe Programs.
Needle and Syringe Programs help reduce the number of improperly discarded needles and syringes by providing disposal bins and containers, educating clients about safe disposal and by clearing discarded injecting equipment from areas where injecting drug use occurs.
All Needle and Syringe Programs accept needles and syringes from the public regardless of whether or not they are clients. This means that if people with diabetes and other medical conditions do not have access to disposal facilities through Diabetes Australia, community pharmacies or local councils, they can dispose of used needles and syringes at Needle and Syringe Programs.
Studies show that most injecting drug users do not discard used needles and syringes in public areas.
Some pharmacies and syringe vending machines provide injecting equipment in special containers or Fitpacks™ which double as disposal containers. The containers have an internal moulded flap which ‘lock in’ used needles and syringes, preventing both re-use and inappropriate disposal.
The recommended way to dispose of a discarded needle and syringe varies between states and territories in Australia. If you do find a needle and syringe the preferred option for disposal is to contact the Needle Clean Up Hotline or local council in your area. They will usually arrange for the needle and syringe to be collected within 48 hours.
If you find a needle and syringe and want to dispose of it yourself, find a hard plastic container with a screw top (such as a plastic juice, milk or soft drink bottle). Take the container to the syringe. Keep away from the sharp end of the needle. Carefully pick up the syringe by the barrel. Do not replace the cap on the needle. Needle point first, put the syringe into the container and seal it tightly. Ring the Needle Clean Up Hotline or local council in your area to arrange for the container to be collected. Alternatively, you can put the container with the needle and syringe inside into a nearby syringe disposal bin. Do not put needles and syringes down toilets or drains as they will end up in the waterways or on beaches. Do not put needles and syringes in household waste or recycling bins. Tell children not to touch or pick up needles and syringes and to always call an adult for help
Ready to make a change?
If you are a current user of our Clean Needle Program and are ready to make a change to your use, find out more about our services here.
Supporting a family member
If you are supporting a family member who is currently injecting drugs, learn more about what supports we can offer you here.
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