Healthy living

Needle and syringe programs

Needle and syringe programs (NSPs) provide sterile needles and syringes to people who inject drugs (PWID).

This helps prevent people who inject drugs from being infected with blood-borne viruses such as HIV/AIDShepatitis C and hepatitis B.

NSPs provide a range of services, including:

  • education and information
  • sterile injecting equipment
  • referral to other services.

Needle and syringe programs:

  • do not condone drug use –  NSPs are a harm reduction strategy. While they do not condone the use of drugs they acknowledge that these behaviours occur and seek to minimise related harms to individuals and the general community. For further information read the Australian Government Department of Health Needle and syringe programs information kit (external site).
  • encourage the safe disposal of needles and syringes – needles and syringes are always provided with a container to dispose of used items safely. In addition, NSP staff are trained to provide information and education to clients to encourage safer injecting practices and safer disposal.

Find out more about the types of needle and syringe programs in WA and where you can find NSP services in WA.

Community benefits of NSPs

Needle and syringe programs:

  • reduce the incidence of sharing and re-using of injecting equipment – this reduces the spread of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs and the wider community
  • reduce other health harms that may result from injecting drugs
  • are often the only contact that people who inject drugs have with the health system
  • provide people who inject drugs with information on safer injecting and on drug treatment services
  • encourage the safe disposal of needles and syringes
  • work together with drug treatment and education services to reduce drug-related harm in our community
  • are cost-effective – HIV can cause AIDS and hepatitis C can cause liver disease and other serious illnesses, and treating these diseases costs far more than preventing them through programs like NSPs. It was estimated that between 2000 and 2009 NSPs avoided 32,050 HIV infections and 96,667 hepatitis C infections, resulting in $1.28 billion saved in healthcare costs (DoHA 2009).

Who uses needles and syringes?

People who inject drugs do not fall into any particular ethnic or socio-economic group, nor are users found solely in urban settings. Approximately 15 per cent of the total number of needles and syringes are distributed in WA by non-metropolitan NSPs.

It is difficult to estimate the number of people who inject drugs due to the illegal nature of the activity. Not every PWID injects daily. Some drug users may inject drugs occasionally or only on weekends. Some people may also try drugs experimentally.

Where to get help

Remember

  • Needle and syringe programs (NSPs) provide sterile needles and syringes to people who inject drugs.
  • NSPs do not condone drug use and encourage the safe disposal of needles and syringes.
  • These programs offer benefits to both injecting drug users and the wider community.

Acknowledgements

Public Health


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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