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CyprusHealth

Public dispensers to lower risk among drug users

REGULATED dispensers allowing drug users to obtain clean syringes so as to prevent them from sharing needles with other users, have been placed in hospitals across Cyprus, it emerged on Friday.

The move is a joint initiative by the health ministry and the Cyprus Anti-drugs council (Ask), according to the council’s monthly report for August.

Cyprus is among countries with a high risk of an outbreak of diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS amongst drug users, as was recently observed in Greece, Ask said.

Citing a report by the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction (EMCDDA), it said that Cyprus faced significant dangers of spreading infectious diseases as there was a low level of opiate users receiving substitution treatment.

Ask also said that another factor was a lack of availability of sterilised syringes, with Cyprus ranking in the lowest groups of countries on the number of syringes per intravenous drugs users.

Out of 1,304 people who were receiving treatment for drug addiction in 2015, 270 said they had used a syringe at least once. About 44 per cent of intravenous users were found to be Hepatitis C positive, and one person was HIV positive.

Additionally, only a small number of the 270 intravenous drug users took blood tests, just 52 in 2015, Ask said.

“Based on the decisions of the national committee for drugs, the council, in cooperation with the health ministry has streamlined the installation of machines automatically offering risk-reducing dispensers.”

Available at the old general hospitals in Nicosia, Limassol and Larnaca, as well as the Famagusta health centre and outside Paphos’ emergency department, the machines work with the use of a token which can be supplied from state-run programmes for drug dependency.

The aim is to allow sterilised syringes to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and reduce the risk of infectious diseases.

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