The Ministry of Health has announced a “refresh” of the Needle Exchange Programme, as part of a wider health-based approach to ensure the wellbeing of people who inject drugs.
The Needle Exchange Programme (NEP) was implemented in 1988 in response to HIV and AIDS and at the time was the first nationally funded programme in the world.
“The focus of this programme has been on ensuring safe ways for people who inject drugs to access and dispose of needles and syringes, however it can be enhanced to meet international best practice and contribute towards the elimination of hepatitis C in New Zealand,“ Ministry of Health Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr Niki Stefanogiannis said today.
“Harm reduction is highly cost effective and prevents future health costs such as blood borne infections or infecting injuries.
“We want to make sure our services are aiming for equity and supporting people who experience disproportionate harm. We also want to ensure the programme is in line with other priority areas such as the Hepatitis C Action Plan, Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020 – 2025 and the Ola Manuia: Pacific Health and Wellbeing Action Plan 2020 – 2025.”
As part of the refresh, the Ministry will be publishing an open competitive tender document for a nationally consistent service with a broader harm reduction focus alongside specific support for people who inject drugs. There will also be a focus on improving equity and ensuring the service is culturally safe and consistent with Māori and Pacific cultural practices, it said.