For the Greater Good? Free Crack Pipes to Curb HIV

January 3, 2012  |  

Is being a drug addict better than contracting HIV or hepatitis? If you ask Canadian health officials that answer might be yes. A trial project launched in Vancouver’s crime-ridden downtown eastside has begun administering heat-resistant and shatterproof glass crack pipes to addicts in an effort to prevent them from becoming infected with such diseases.

As part of the $60,000 trial, users are also given mouthpieces, filters, alcohol swabs, screens, and push sticks. Between 70 and 90 drug kits are reportedly given out each day and while this isn’t Canada’s first time addressing this issue with a harm reduction approach such as this, it is the first time officials have given addicts all of their tools in one pouch.

A spokeswoman for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority seemed genuinely proud of her organization’s efforts at disease prevention in an article with the National Post but David Brener, director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, said “Programs like this ignore the problems of addiction.”

“All this does is aid and abet. What we should do is put that same amount of money into treatment and prevention. Because treatment and prevention work.”

I’m inclined to agree with Brener. The health authority’s approach may work as a temporary band-aid to prevent disease contraction in the short term, but unless they plan to follow this up with drug and disease treatment campaigns, I’d say this effort is ill-focused.

What do you think about this harm reduction tactic? Is it better than nothing or encouraging crack addiction?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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