Safe injecting allowed at Vancouver AIDS treatment centre thanks to federal exemption

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The Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation is now allowed to continue to provide safe injecting services at their downtown centre thanks to a federal exemption.

That means nurses and doctors at the Dr. Peter Centre won’t be charged with a crime under federal law for activities such as providing clean needles to intravenous drug users.

Image: Nabil Omar via Flickr

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Health Minister Terry Lake said the move is excellent news for the public health and safety of Vancouver.

“The evidence is clear – supervised injection services prevent overdose deaths and save lives. They have become a valued part of health services in Vancouver and are an important part of our response to substance use and addiction. We continue to support supervised injection along with other harm reduction services,” Lake said in a statement.

The Dr. Peter Centre is run by the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation as well as Vancouver Coastal Health and provides services and treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS.

The organization said allowing safe injecting at their facilities prevents infections, overdose deaths, and the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C. It also engages vulnerable people and allows them to get proper HIV treatment.

Chief Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health Dr. Patricia Daly said overdose deaths are on the rise in the city.

“Supervised injection services, like those provided at the Dr. Peter Centre and Insite, are needed now more than ever,” she said.

“Health Canada’s approval of this exemption application paves the way for us to explore additional opportunities for incorporating supervised injection into existing health care services for those suffering from addiction.”

Insite was Vancouver’s first official safe injection site and opened in 2003, but the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation has offered the service since 2002. While generally supported by the local community, Insite drew controversy from the Bush administration upon opening. The RCMP also criticized the safe injection site, but later announced their support for it.

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