West coast isn’t a major problem area, says Yetman
© File photo
By Rudey Downey
Special To The Star
Despite an increase in its use, the AIDS committee has no immediate plans to expand a needle swap program to the rest of the west coast.
Gerard Yetman is the executive director of the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, based in St. John’s.
Yetman has been overseeing the needle swap program in St. John’s and Corner Brook, which provides fresh needles to drug users to protect them from disease.
In a survey completed over the past year by the Newfoundland and Labrador AIDS committee, it was discovered that the swap program has seen a 60 per cent increase in needles given out in the province from 2005 to 2012. Yetman hopes the program will reach the 500,000 mark in needles this year.
The AIDS committee runs a swap program in Corner Brook. While Yetman says there is a drug problem on the west coast, there is no need for expansion of the swap program beyond Corner Brook.
He says that if the need for needles on the west coast arises, the AIDS committee will step in to provide them.
“There won’t be any changes to the program on the west coast because as of now there hasn’t been any identified increase in that area,” said Yetman. “The present swap service in Corner Brook is able to service the entire west coast.”
From April 2012 to March 2013, 69,472 needles were distributed on the entire west coast compared to more than 209,000 needles in St. John’s alone during the same time span. Yetman sees the spread of Hepatitis C and HIV in particular as a potential problem on the west coast.
In St. John’s there are areas called satellite stations within the city where people in need can collect new needles.
Yetman says that in towns such as Corner Brook or Stephenville the AIDS committee would partner with other organizations.
“In a town of 1,000 ... they may have a women’s centre or a YMCA that we can work with,” said Yetman.