I’ve been fortunate to have been given access to photograph at the two Drug Consumption Rooms in Australia, the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) which has been running for over 17 years, and the recently opened Melbourne Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR). Most of the photos I’ve been taking are of the staff and the facilities at the projects… but I’d like to describe the photo I didn’t take.
Link opens on my photography site
The latter half of 2016 saw increased interest and positive development with regard to the introduction of Safer Injecting Facilities (SIF) in both Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. Whether or not this interest proves to be yet another false policy promise in the progress of UK harm reduction remains to be seen. However, during this period of potential development, I couldn’t help but notice that advocates of SIF stated that such facilities would aim to reduce local levels of ‘public injecting’ and assist with ‘removing drug-use from the street’.
I’m writing a conference presentation at the moment, the topic is the need for safer spaces to use drugs in the UK. As part of the research for it I spent a day this week walking around Birmingham with my camera. I think it’s very easy for drug workers to lose sight of the situations people are forced into when using drugs. Seeing where some people are injecting really makes it clear that we need a real push to get drug consumption rooms started.
Last month the Human Medicines (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2015 were laid before Parliament, amending the 2012 Regulations which restrict the supply etc. of medicines, and we got the first glimpse of the changes that are to be introduced from 1st October. The main change is that: “Persons employed or engaged in the provision of drug treatment services”, drugs workers (though a variety of different names apply to this role these days) to you and me, will be added to the list of exempted professionals who can supply Naloxone without falling foul of the restrictions.
Naloxone is the opiate antagonist that can prevent overdose. In the US it’s use is increasing and within the UK there are national programmes in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to distribute it, but not in England, in England it’s left up to local areas to decide if they should distribute it. So, I thought it was time for a top ‘ten reasons to distribute take home naloxone’ article.
So foil is now legal in the UK (since September 5th), needle programmes across the country are now (hopefully) stocking it and offering it as a possible tool for change or early engagement route for people who smoke rather than inject their drug of choice. So here’s a bit of advice for those workers giving it out.
From the 5th of September foil is going to be legal to distribute from needle programmes in the UK. Another important piece of harm reduction kit that we can now have in our ‘toolbox’ of interventions and engagement. But changes like this still take far too long to happen.
This month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) – the UN agency that coordinates international health responses – launched a new set of guidelines for HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations. The new document is the culmination of months of consultation and review, and pulls together existing guidance for five groups: men who have sex with men, people in prisons and other closed settings, sex workers, transgender people, and people who inject drugs.
Last week I was invited to speak at the National Service User Involvement Conference in Birmingham. The conference was attended by between 500 and 600 people and I was talking about naloxone. You might not think it, but presentations like this are stressful and remembering why is important.
The following ‘harm reduction response’ has been inspired by UnitingCare ReGen’s proactive response to negative media reports of needles/syringes in community settings. This ‘letter’ provides a template for similar action by relevant bodies based in the UK (harm reduction agencies, drug and alcohol workers, drug users).