Safer Injection Facilities in North America: Their Place in Public Policy and Health InitiativesRobert S. Broadhead, Thomas H. Kerr, Jean-Paul C. Grund, Frederick L. Altice (2002)
The continuing threat posed by HIV, HCV, drug overdose, and other injection-related health problems in both the United States and Canada indicates the need for further development of innovative interventions for drug injectors, for reducing disease and mortality rates, and for enrolling injectors into drug treatment and other health care programs. Governmentally sanctioned “safer injection facilities” (SIFs) are a service that many countries around the world have added to the array of public health programs they offer injectors. In addition to needle exchange programs, street-outreach and other services, SIFs are clearly additions to much larger comprehensive public health initiatives that municipalities pursue in many countries. A survey of the existing research literature, plus the authors' ethnographic observations of 18 SIFs operating in western Europe and one SIF that was recently opened in Sydney, Australia, suggest that SIFs target several problems that needle exchange, street-outreach, and other conventional services fall short in addressing: (1) reducing rates of drug injection and related-risks in public spaces; (2) placing injectors in more direct and timely contact with medical care, drug treatment, counseling, and other social services; (3) reducing the volume of injectors' discarded litter in, and expropriation of, public spaces. In light of the evidence, the time has come for more municipalities within North America to begin considering the place of SIFs in public policy and health initiatives, and to provide support for controlled field trials and demonstration projects of SIFs operating in injection drug-using communities.