Free sterile syringes don't encourage drug injection, says rights advocate

Providing sterile needles and syringes to at-risk drug users does not increase drug use or encourage drug use, insists human rights advocate Shaun Shelly.

Shelly, the National PWUD (or People Who Use Drugs) Policy, Advocacy and Human Rights Manager at TB HIV Care, says the distribution of sterile instruments reduces the transmission of HIV/Aids and Hepatitis C.

He claims there is decreasing opposition to organisations providing sterile needles to drug users, despite the arrest of health workers in Pretoria last month.

The UN estimates that there are at least 67 000 injecting drug users in South Africa, Shelly advises.

He explains that drug users struggle with access to sterile needles and either share or re-use needles - making them vulnerable to infections and diseases.

We're trying to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, not only HIV.

Shaun Shelly, National PWUD (or People Who Use Drugs) Policy, Advocacy and Human Rights Manager at TB HIV Care

According to Shelly, the 'war on drugs' rhetoric can hinder the progress of healthcare workers helping at-risk drug users.

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