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Calls for investment into rehabilitation and treatment to address injecting drug use

Date posted: 12 November 2015

New research from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) has found a higher prevalence of injecting drug use in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, compared to non-Indigenous populations.

At the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs (APSAD) conference in Perth recently, Associate Professor James Ward from SAHMRI presented the findings from his research on injecting drug use and hepatitis C infection among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Professor Ward estimated between 5-10 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have injected drugs, compared to two percent of non-Indigenous people. He also said the rate of hepatitis C was three times that of non-Indigenous people, where it has plateaued.

The research also showed the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing needle syringe programs has jumped from 5 to 14 percent over the past two decades. 'That is good news on one side, that a large number of Aboriginal people are accessing needles through syringe programs,' said Professor Ward. 'But something is going wrong after people collect the equipment. They are sharing with bigger groups..they are sharing with extended family.'

Professor Ward has said the community needs innovative, prevention-focused programs to target young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 'We need further investments and continued efforts around primary prevention,' he said. 'While there is a contraction of drug and alcohol services in Australia in terms of funding and resourcing, we have got an expansion of injecting in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.' Professor Ward also noted that Aboriginal Medical Services need to adopt harm minimisation programs as a fixture in their practices.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News, NACCHO Communique


Last updated: 12 November 2015
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Australia's National Research Centre on AOD Workforce Development National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre National Drug Research Institute