Drug users who have long sought to keep others safe by voluntarily distributing clean needles are now getting paid for their work in North Battleford, Sask., where public health workers are responding to recent outbreaks of HIV and syphilis.
The program gives people who are in contact with drug users, including some who are still users themselves, backpacks stocked with clean drug-use supplies to distribute.
Vending machines stocked with sterile drug-use equipment are also being used to provide 24-hour access to clean needles. There are plans to do the same in the Saskatchewan cities of Lloydminster and Meadow Lake.
The first vending machine was installed outside the Battleford Indian and Métis Friendship Centre at the end of July. The supplies are free — they use tokens obtained from local services like the Friendship Centre.
It is the first time the machines and the paid backpack positions have been used to help stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections in Saskatchewan, said Danielle Radchenko, sexual health co-ordinator for the Saskatchewan Health Authority.