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Cyprus

New syringe vending machines for drug users

Syringe vending machines will be available soon

Vending machines selling needles and syringes to intravenous drug users will be set up in all regions of Cyprus soon, the Cyprus anti-drugs council confirmed on Monday.
“There will be around five or six. The exact amount has not been decided yet, the plans are at a very early stage,” Natasa Savopoulou from the council said. “We are still doing research and the amount depends on the budget.”
The machines will also contain condoms in an effort to encourage intravenous drug users to have safe sex.
In many countries, there are also mobile programmes where syringes are handed out from buses enabling a wider coverage of areas. Syringes and condoms are often distributed free to further encourage intravenous drug users to keep to safe practices.
In Cyprus, only one such place exists because, according to Savopoulou, unlike other countries with known drug-user areas, in Cyprus similar areas have not been identified.
The single exception is ‘Stochos’ opposite the Phaneromeni high school in Nicosia. Here, drug users can get free syringes, coffee and meet to have a chat. It was opened in 2014 by the council to help those drug users who are cut off from networks and other sources of help. Counsellors and health seminars are also available.
According to the council, Cyprus is among the countries with the lowest provision of needle exchange programmes in Europe and this puts drug users at high risk, as shared needles and syringes greatly increase the chances of spreading AIDS.
Hepatitis is also transmitted though contact with contaminated blood, and over 80 per cent of people infected with the hepatitis C virus contracted it from unsafe injection drug use.
Around the world, heroin, cocaine, crack and methamphetamine are the most commonly injected street drugs. In Cyprus, heroin was responsible for most of the 160 drug-related deaths in the previous 10 years. As the council pointed out, intravenous drug users especially of heroin, have a mortality rate 20 times greater than the rest of the population.
A recent report by the anti-drug council reveals that the most widely used stimulant is cocaine with some 0.6 per cent of 15 to 34-year-olds admitting to using it in the last year while the percentage of methamphetamine use in Cyprus is 0.4 per cent in the age group 15 to 34.


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