Sticking Points: Barriers to Access to Needle and Syringe Programs in Canada

Sticking Points: Barriers to Access to Needle and Syringe Programs in Canada
Needle and syringe programs (NSPs) are a proven, cost-effective way of reducing the transmission of bloodborne viruses such as HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) among people who use drugs. They do not result in increased crime in neighbourhoods nor do they lead to drug use. Harm reduction, including NSPs, has been endorsed by Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments.

However, barriers persist that prevent people who use drugs from free access to sufficient sterile injection equipment.

This report begins with a brief overview of NSPs in Canada. Next it examines barriers to NSP access identified through literature review and personal communications with key informants. Identified barriers include:

  • Criminal drug and paraphernalia laws;
  • Police law enforcement practices;
  • Judicially imposed conditions of release that restrict access to neighbourhoods where NSPs are located;
  • Program design-related barriers;
  • Stigma and privacy concerns;
  • Community resistance;
  • Inappropriate use of municipal zoning laws; and
  • Insufficient funding.

Finally, the report lists a number of recommendations to address and eliminate barriers to access to NSPs in Canada.

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