On the 6 October 2010 DHDP Wellington celebrated its 21st birthday and had the offical opening of its new office at 233 Willis street.
Things started off with a traditonal blessing (mihi) by Rangimoana Taylor at the new office, this was followed on by speeches by Chairperson Bill Logan, CEO Sue Forbes, Catherine Healy and associate minister of health Peter Dunne (M.P) at the Southern Cross bar and grill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speech at a gathering to mark the opening of the new Drugs Project:

Southern Cross

Bill Logan

Chair, Drugs, Health and Development Project Trust

6 October 2010

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena kotou katoa!

 Thank you all for coming.

 My name is Bill Logan. I’m the chair of what is officially called the Drugs, Health and Development Project Trust Board. These days we usually call it the Drugs Project.

 A particular word of welcome to the Associate Minister of Health, the Honourable Peter Dunne, who’s our principal speaker today, representing the government to declare our new premises open.

 And welcome especially to those of you who have contributed to the needle exchange movement in Wellington and nationally over the years. Many of you are here from out of town. Thank you for coming.

 Just so you know what to expect. There will be a little bit of speaking now, then we want to cut a birthday cake for our 21st birthday, and then we hope you will stay on to enjoy some refreshments.

 The Drugs Project is part of something quite unique, and extremely important.

 It’s as simple as this: If the users of injectable drugs fail to use clean needles they will get dangerous illnesses, with enormous impact on their quality and length of life. They will form a pool of infection in the community and will be a threat to the health of the wider population.

 The needle exchange system has prevented that.

 The transmission of blood-borne pathogens through needles in this country is as low as anywhere in the world.

 That saves health, it saves life, it contributes to a healthy population. And it also, incidentally, saves an incalculable sum in the health budget.

 I remember back in 1985, on a television panel discussion about Aids at the height of the period of panic, with the then Minister of Health, Michael Bassett.

 He had agreed that homosexual law reform and wide distribution of condoms were necessary to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. But he couldn’t cope with the idea of allowing injecting drugs users to acquire needles within the law.

 We had a brief argument on television. I won't claim that it was my argument that changed the Minister’s mind. He had some competent advisers around him—I hope Michael Baker and Red Yska are here. But Mr Bassett did change his mind, and within a few short months the law was changed.

 There were some steps however between that change and the funding of  community organisations for the distribution of needles.

 I want to pay tribute today to those who fought the necessary political and organisational battles.

 The key name is Gary McGrath, a junkie and aids hero.

 I met him when I was co-ordinator of the Aids Support Network in Wellington when he arrived back home from Australia, with the Aids Panic still in fast and furious around us in November 1985. He was very ill with aids, expecting to live a few days or a few weeks.

 Well Gary lasted eight years. He was a bit of a rogue. He sometimes stretched the truth a little—unless it was necessary to stretch the truth a lot. And he became, in his way an aids politician—a most unlikely aids politician, and a successful aids politician.

 Gary started an organisation called the I.V League. He became the first person who openly had HIV to serve on the board of the Aids Foundation.

 Rodger Wright in Christchurch was involved in the I.V League, too. They battled away, and more than anyone else the I.V League was the main force in the achievement of the needle exchange scheme.

 When Gary died in 1993 Rodger asked me to read a message for him at the funeral: Rodger said Gary “was my mentor, my strength and hope.”

 Gary and Rodger’s most important lasting contribution is the community focus of the needle exchange scheme as we have it in New Zealand. There are now needle exchanges in many parts of the world, but New Zealand is unique in our involvement of people who are fluent in the culture of  intravenous drug using. That is our rather amazing inheritance from Gary and Rodger.

 The truth is that there is a sub-culture of recreational drug-related needle use. It cannot be stamped out. It is associated with substantial public health risks, and it is critically important to minimise those risks. Modification of injecting habits in that culture was crucial at the time HIV/aids arrived in New Zealand, and maintainence of the necessary behaviour remains crucial.

 That is what the approach of harm minimisation is all about.

 It is very difficult to have any useful impact on a culture from outside that culture. We all accept advice best from people who don’t want to make changes in the main patterns of our lives, and who we know don’t want to make changes in the main patterns of our lives. We accept advice best from people we are confident in, who we think really know our needs, who we feel accept usas we are. Needle users and accepting former-users are the best promoters of safe needle-using behaviour.

 That is what the Ottawa Charter is all about.

 It is our understanding of that which makes the needle exchanges in this country as successful as they have been.

 Sue Forbes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 And now we have Catherine Healy. Catherine, who is National Coordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, has been the guardian angel of WIDE and the DHDP/Drugs Project from the very beginning. She is currently on our board.

 

 Catherine Healy:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 And now the Minister, the Honourable Peter Dunne:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 I would like to thank Bill Logan, Chair of The Drugs Health and Development Project Trust (DHDP), for inviting me to speak this evening, and the dedicated team that have made this event possible.

 I would also like to acknowledge DHDP Staff and Board members (past and present); Catherine Healey, the National coordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective; representatives from the Alcohol and Drug community; the AIDS foundation; the Ministry of Health and other distinguished guests.

 We all recall that the threat of an AIDS epidemic in the 1980s was the catalyst for the development of a needle exchange programme.

 It provided the legislative platform for the government in office at the time to circumvent the spread of blood-borne viruses, primarily amongst injecting drug users.

 And so, New Zealand became the first country in the world to introduce a service that included the sale of sterile needles and syringes.

 In 1989, WIDE (Wellington Information for Drug Education), one of the initial five exchanges funded by the then Department of Health, opened here in Wellington at 282 Cuba Street.

 This evening we are gathered here to celebrate the 21 years the Wellington needle exchange service has been operating, the transition of this organisation into DHDP and the opening of your new premises.

I would also like to acknowledge the achievement of those individuals, including yourselves, who have expanded the programme from the original five needle exchanges and a handful of pharmacies, with a combined distribution of 100,000 needles, to the nation-wide service it is today, with 20 dedicated exchanges, and more than 180 pharmacies and associated services provided by the New Zealand Prostitute’s Collective and sexual health clinics. 

 The programme today provides in excess of 2 million sterile needles and syringes annually to injecting drug users. 

 75% of this distribution is accounted for through needle exchanges.

This growth in service delivery is one of the reasons why DHDP has shifted premises, albeit over the road from where they were located in the last 16 years. 

 But the new premises provide the necessary space for both staff and the growing clientele, and provide a confidential, non-judgemental, peer based service. 

 This type of approach engenders trust in a population that is often difficult to reach with conventional services. 

 Although the Government does not condone the use of illegal drugs, it is realistic enough to accept that drug use continues to exist despite its legal prohibition. 

As you are aware, the Needle exchange Programme is based on the National Drug Policy, which uses a harm reduction philosophy. 

 That recognises the potential harm from injecting drug use and that providing injecting drug users with clean needles and syringes, education on safe injecting and sexual practices, is an important part of both enabling individuals to make informed choices about at risk behaviours, and minimising adverse health consequences from dirty needles and syringes. 

 The Drugs Health and Development Project Trust is an organisation of 22 full and part time staff, and 8 volunteers operating services in Masterton, Palmerston North, Whanganui and Napier, and includes a mobile service that covers the region from greater Wellington through to the Manawatu

The positive work DHDP provides, alongside the other exchanges, cannot be understated. 

 Evaluations have shown that:

§  every $1 spent on the needle exchange service in New Zealand results in a saving of $3.35 in future health costs 

§  every $1 invested in needle exchange service was estimated to yield a $20 return in lifetime treatment costs

§  for every 1000 injecting drug users, the costs saved in the prevention of long-term complications associated with the transmission of hepatitis C have been estimated at between $6.5 and $19 million.

The needle exchange programme is therefore an important, cost effective tool for reducing the spread of blood-borne viruses amongst drug users and into the wider community. 

 The effectiveness of the programme is credited as one of the reasons why New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of HIV in the world and currently the lowest rate of HIV amongst injecting drug users in the OECD. 

 Upon this foundation, we now consider the future. 

 The Ottawa Charter notes that responsibility for good health outcomes has to be shared amongst individuals, community groups, health professionals, health services and the government

I understand that, as in the past, new challenges will emerge due to the changing pattern of drug use in New Zealand. 

 It is therefore more important than ever to consider how we best share this collective responsibility, with the limited resources available, to ensure the greatest health outcome for, not only injecting drug users, but their families, whanau and the wider community.

 Based on the progress made over the last 21 years, the needle exchange programme is well placed to lever off past learnings, ready itself for future opportunities and use its collective efforts to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of the service to meet the challenges it will no doubt face over the next 21 years.

Thank you, once again, for inviting me here this evening to be part of your celebration.

Bill Logan:

Thank you minister.

 And now. The birthday cake. I’m going to invite our very first Manager, Colleen Winn, and our current manager, Sue Forbes, to cut the cake.