Needle and syringe programs: your questions answered

Why are people who inject drugs provided with sterile needles and syringes?

Page last updated: 2005

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.

  • Government and non-government organisations provide Needle and Syringe Programs to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C infections.

  • Needle and Syringe Programs have saved thousands of lives.

  • The savings to the healthcare system in avoided treatment costs for HIV alone is more than 20 times the cost of running Needle and Syringe Programs.

Chris Ireland, partner in Sharpe's Pharmacy, Darlinghurst, Sydney:

Our pharmacy has been operating as a Needle and Syringe Program for over sixteen years. When I first started working at Sharpe's I was surprised by the wide spectrum of people who requested injecting supplies. My idea of what an injecting drug user would look like and how they would behave was really challenged. We run our business based on respect and try to treat all our clients with concern for their health, and that includes allowing them to have access to sterile injecting supplies if they choose to use drugs intravenously. We make it clear to our clients that we are available to talk about drug issues and to refer them to appropriate support if they want that. I feel that often a friendly, non-judgemental attitude fosters a positive relationship with clients and can give them the confidence to look at their health choices and make changes in their lives.