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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

CANADA: Vancouver Crack Addicts Given Free Pipes in Bid to Curb Disease


Edmonton Journal (12.31.11) - Tuesday, January 03, 2012

In December, Vancouver began an eight-month trial project to improve the health of crack cocaine smokers in the troubled Downtown Eastside neighborhood. The use of crack has surged locally, said Trudi Beutel, a spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA).

VCHA aims to distribute 60,000 harm-reduction kits through five distribution centers as part of the broader, $60,000 (US $59,429) trial. The project seeks to quantify the number of crack smokers in Vancouver, to learn more about crack addiction, and to engage users and offer services including detoxification, Beutel said.

The kits contain glass pipes that are heat-resistant and shatterproof: Experts say this should reduce mouth injuries that can make smokers more susceptible to diseases, including HIV and hepatitis B and C. In addition, the kits contain mouthpieces, filters, alcohol swabs, screens, and push sticks. These items have been offered in the past separately; this is the first time they have been combined in a single kit, Beutel said.

"What this boils down to is it's about disease prevention," Beutel said. "It's about preventing more communicable diseases, which land these people in hospital on a frequent basis and clog up emergency rooms." The five distribution centers - Washington Needle Depot, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), Portland Hotel Society, Lookout Shelter, and Drug and Alcohol Meeting Support for Women - have agreed to report data throughout the trial.


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