While the debate in Ottawa rages over streets rife with drugs and littered with discarded needles, those working nearest to the problem said yesterday the focus here should be on the addicts.
“(Critics) should be taking two steps back and focusing on the homeless people trying to deal with their pain so they’re using injection drugs,” said Greg Riehl, president of the Canadian Association for Nurses in AIDS Care (CANAC). “The needles are a symptom of what’s happening in society.”
The association, closing its annual conference here, held a press conference yesterday in which it called on all levels of government — and for every day Canadians — to support “harm reduction programs” that have come under fire recently for dispensing free drug paraphernalia to addicts.
Mark Townsend, director of the Vancouver-based safe injection site Insite, said the clamour around needles and crack pipes on the streets misses the point of the programs — to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
“It might be unpleasant seeing (needles) on the street but no one ever has died from one,” he said. “If there is littering in the streets, you work out ways of cleaning them up.”
Liz Evans, executive director of the PHS Community Services Society, which operates Insite, said Vancouver dealt with similar issues years ago and “it’s so annoying that it’s happening again in Ottawa.”
“We have to ask ourselves if we are going to return to the dark ages or ... listen to rational science and health care professionals and those who care about human beings.”

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