Press statement

UNAIDS welcomes New South Wales Government's plan to make injecting room permanent

GENEVA, 15 September 2010— The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) welcomes the plan by the New South Wales State Government in Australia to grant the Medically Supervised Injecting Room in Sydney’s Kings Cross a permanent licence.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé visited the centre last month during an official trip to Australia. He was impressed by the facility which operates in a district where drug overdose deaths have been concentrated.

“Services like the ones provided by the Medically Supervised Injecting Room in Kings Cross prevent new HIV infections and save many lives,” said Mr Sidibé. “I congratulate the New South Wales Government for taking an evidence-informed decision to protect people who use drugs.”

The injecting room first opened its doors in May 2001 on a trial basis and since then its licence must be reconsidered every four years. It was due for renewal next year. Today, the New South Wales Premier Kristina Keneally declared that the centre would now become permanent, following a decision by the cabinet.

Today nearly 10% of global HIV infections are due to unsafe injecting drug use. If sub-Saharan Africa is excluded, up to 30% of global HIV infections are due to injecting drug use. Of an estimated 15.9 million people who inject drugs in 148 countries, around 3 million are infected with HIV.

UNAIDS supports holistic harm reduction measures. They are an essential part of the combination HIV prevention approach recommended by UNAIDS. Harm reduction programmes include access to sterile injecting equipment, opioid substitution therapies, community-based outreach, and prevention of sexual transmission of HIV among drug users. These are the most cost effective means of reducing HIV-related risk behaviours in drug users.

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