The N.S.W. Needle and Syringe program
The N.S.W. Needle and Syringe program (N.S.P.) is an evidence based public health program that aims to protect the community from the spread of infections such as H.I.V. and Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs by providing viable alternatives to specific risk behaviours that have the potential to increase the transmission of blood borne viruses.
The program achieves this by offering a range of goods and services through a number of outlets known as Needle Exchanges.
There are over 800 Needle Exchange outlets in New South Wales. These include more than 385 public sector outlets, approximately 375 pharmacies and more than 100 automatic dispensing machines.
The goods and services provided by Needle Exchange outlets include - sterile needles and syringes, swabs, sterile water, cotton wool, waste containers, information about the methods of safe disposal (including collection and disposal of used needles and syringes), safe sex items, development and delivery of relevant education programs, and the provision of information on and referrals to other health and welfare services.
The Gender Centre's Needle Exchange
The Gender Centre is an approved Needle and Syringe program outlet and within this program is known as a "Secondary" N.S.P. outlet. Secondary N.S.P. outlets are those where the provision of needles and syringes is not one of the prime purposes of the service but one of a range of other health and community services that are provided, In SecondaryN.S.P. outlets, staff are primarily employed to perform duties other than to provide N.S.P. services.
As part of our regular duties to serve the transgender and gender diverse communities, the Gender Centre provides a range of needles and syringes, and information about safe injecting procedures to those charged with the responsibility of injecting their own hormone treatment. We also provide a range of safe-sex items as part of our outreach service to transgender street based sex workers and accordingly provide safe-sex information to these people and others within the communities that we serve.
The Gender Centre is therefore well-placed to provide the community with a needle exchange outlet from both our Petersham premises and our twice-weekly outreach service.
In order to minimise the sharing and re-use of needles and syringes, it is necessary for people who inject drugs to have access to a sterile needle and syringe for every injection.N.S.P. clients are often involved in illicit drug use and as such there is considerable stigma attached to injecting drug use. People who inject drugs may therefore have a number of concerns about accessing the program, including fear of exposure or concerns about discriminatory or judgmental attitudes. Gender Centre staff are aware of these concerns and stress the anonymity and confidentiality of the our Needle Exchange service. We treat all of our clients with a high level of professionalism, respect and dignity and take care to establish a relationship of trust with our needle exchange clients.
In accordance with our obligations as a Secondary N.S.P. outlet we stock a variety of injecting equipment, including a range of syringe brands and sizes, a range of needle gauges and sizes, and a range of personal use and other disposal containers. We do not offer winged vein infusion sets (also known as butterfly cannulas) or syringes with a volume of 10mL or greater. We also provide condoms, lubrication and dental dams. All products are stored according to manufacturers instructions.
The needle exchange is available during our usual business hours of 9:00am - midday and 1:00pm - 4:30pm Monday to Friday and is free of charge.
Approval and Authorisation
Our staff operate under the "Drug Misuse and Trafficking Regulation 2000", which means that they are authorised to perform N.S.P. duties at an approved needle and syringe program outlet and may dispense needles, syringes and associated equipment, and give out information in relation to their use, without being exposed to prosecution under the "Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985".
Furthermore, our outreach staff operate under "Section 36(3) of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966" which means that they are authorised to supply regulated goods while in a public street or other public place. They have also been granted an exemption from "Section 36(1) of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act" with respect to the supply of sterile hypodermic syringes, hypodermic needles, swabs, sterile water, cotton wool and waste containers designed for the disposal of syringes and needles.
Our outreach staff are also aware of and adhere to acknowledged principles of harm minimisation and have promoted better health, social and economic outcomes for the individual, our client group and thus the wider community for many years.
Their specific N.S.P. training also includes working effectively with people who inject drugs (including culturally appropriate service provision), knowledge of blood borne virus transmission and prevention, knowledge of national, state and local patterns of drug use, knowledge of the range of injecting equipment available, knowledge of safe working practices, knowledge of legal and child protection issues in relation to N.S.P. services, knowledge of health promotion strategies and local assessment and referral processes.
Our staff are also trained in policies and procedures that ensure their own safety, and the safety of other staff including wearing suitable clothing to minimise potential needle-stick injuries, safe mode and method of transportation of sharps containers, operating in pairs and having access to an appropriate communications system, and critical incident procedures outlining processes and responsibilities for managing incidents, including client aggression, threats of violence and other potentially hazardous situations.
Further information about the N.S.W. Health, needle and syringe program is available in the document titled "Needle and Syringe Program Policy Guidelines for N.S.W."" available for download as a P.D.F. file from the N.S.W. Health website.
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