|Reports & Publications - Annual Report 2002 - 2003
The Prevention of Blood-Borne Diseases
Over the past three years the Health Unit has been involved in various strategies to prevent the transmission of blood borne disease. Hospital emergency departments and all physicians have received a copy of the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Guidelines for Managing Exposures to Blood Borne Pathogens. The purpose of this document is to provide healthcare providers with information on the assessment and management of persons with accidental exposures to blood and body fluids that may be infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Harm reduction is a realistic and humane approach to reducing the individual and social harms associated with drug use. It seeks to lessen the problems associated with drug use through tactics that safeguard the community and the dignity and health of people who use drugs.
A Health Education Resource Manual was created and distributed to all Emergency Service Agencies and staff training was offered. The final strategy is to provide a Needle Exchange Program. NEPs reduce the transmission rates of Hepatitis B and C, HIV and other blood borne pathogens. The number of people testing positive for Hepatitis C (an indicator of intravenous drug use) in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark is steadily increasing. The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care Mandatory Health Programs and Services Guidelines mandate the Health Unit to ensure that injection drug users have access to sterile injection equipment, counselling, education and referral to primary health services. The majority of Health Units across the province are already offering this service as a harm reduction strategy in their communities.
Part of the initial needs assessment included a survey of local pharmacists in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark to determine if they have had requests from injection drug users for sterile needles and syringes. Results indicated that 79% of pharmacists reported they had requests for needles and syringes from injection drug users in the previous 12-month period. Public awareness strategies including information in regards to harm reduction and needle exchange will appear in the local media during the early phase of implementation. The first Harm Reduction Task Force th meeting was on November 4 , 2003 to consult with community partners in regards to the implementation process of the new program.