Controversy erupted when needle exchange programs were first implemented to stop the spread of disease. Giving away free and clean syringes to heroin users seemed absolutely ridiculous to many but is now pretty much universally accepted and the same path may now be taken for crack pipes.
Apparently some folks in the San Francisco area have been urging officials to adopt the idea. But everyone is not loving it.
Barbara Garcia, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health said in a statement:
“This is a recommendation from a community group. And we get lots of different kinds of recommendations. That recommendation has not come to me. And I’m telling you that if it did, I would say ‘absolutely no, we are not going to distribute crack pipes.’ We have a lot of things to consider for those who are using crack for improving their health. And the distribution of crack pipes is not something I’m going to consider.”
However, Tracey Packer, the director of community health equity for the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health, who oversees the city’s HIV prevention efforts, says they are looking into the idea.
“It is inaccurate to say we are ‘considering’ the program, We are at the exploration point. We are looking at data and information.”
According to reports, crack pipe distribution programs have been successful in Canada. Laura Thomas, a member of the HIV Prevention Planning Council (HPPC), the group that recently suggested San Francisco consider a similar program says:
“San Francisco has a long history of being at the cutting edge of things that we have turned out to be very right on… and I would like to see this one be another of those things that we were right about before the rest of the country catches on,”
But why give out free crack pipes when unlike used needles the pipes do not pierce the skin. Well officials say, “the main focus of this program would be as an outreach effort. Crack users are a population identified as at major risk to have HIV and they often become disconnected from medical services and stop taking their medicine.”
“It may seem counter intuitive, but it’s a great program,” said Thomas. “Once you can bring people into your program, make them feel respected, taken care of, then they’re more likely to come back and get on HIV meds and want to be engaged and taking care of their health.”
Mmm… could this idea soon be as excepted like that of the syringes? Only time will tell…
What do you guys think? Sound off in the comment section below.
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