Conservatives’ decision to appeal Insite ruling obstructs progress on important healthcare issues

published on February 9, 2010

“War on Drugs’ Mentality Has Dire Consequences for Community Health

Vancouver – The federal government’s decision today to challenge a BC Court of Appeal ruling on Insite will further delay the implementation of proven harm reduction initiatives that save lives and reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS.

The Conservative Party decision flies in the face of scientific evidence that supports the benefits provided by Insite, including reduced needle-sharing and HIV transmission rates, increased uptake into addiction treatment and improved public order.

“The federal Conservatives’ intention to contest the B.C. court ruling is an absolute outrage, and will have dire consequences for the health and safety of communities in B.C. and across Canada,” said Dr. Julio Montaner, director, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and President, International AIDS Society.

“We need to expand proven and effective health treatment initiatives such as Insite for the benefit of those in need, whether they are in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside or the rest of Canada. However, the federal government’s decision effectively puts on hold any such plans,” he added.

The time required to deal with the federal government’s appeal hinders the ability to provide the services required now to ensure that addicts receive care and medicines to improve their own health and prevent further cases of HIV and AIDS in the community.

“There is a striking contrast between the federal and provincial governments on this issue,” said Dr. Montaner. “The federal government continues to favor a regressive War on Drugs approach and fight proven and effective harm reduction measures, such as Insite. In contrast, the B.C. provincial government has taken a far more useful approach. It has embraced the scientific evidence and taken the leadership in supporting a public health-based approach that calls for innovative programs to reduce the harms associated with drug use.”

As recently as last week, the BC Liberals announced the expenditure of $48 million to seek out and reach people in marginalized populations, such as injection drug users, to test them for HIV and enroll those infected in treatment.

“This is an example of an effective, research-based health initiative that will help tackle the issues of HIV infection and transmission, and identify people who can be helped by treatment,” said Dr. Montaner.

On January 15, 2010, the BC Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision, and clearly ruled that Insite, a health care facility, is under provincial, not federal, jurisdiction. The decision allowed Insite, where injection drug users receive clean needles and inject drugs under the supervision of nurses and other health care providers, to continue to operate based on its demonstrated health benefits.

“The federal government must revise its destructive War on Drugs mentality and implement policies that approach drug addiction from a health perspective rather than an ineffective and supposedly tough-on-crime perspective, because the only people prospering under their current thinking are criminals and drug gangs,” added Dr. Montaner.

“This case is not about questions regarding interjurisdictional immunity and the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments, as the Minister claims. It is about health, the health of our fellow Canadians and of our communities. It’s time the federal government recognized that.”

Click here for more on the scientific evaluation of Insite

About the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada’s largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility. The BC-CfE is based at St Paul’s Hospital, Providence Health Care, and a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. Located in Vancouver, Canada, the BC-CfE is dedicated to improving the health of British Columbians with HIV through the development, monitoring and dissemination of comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases.

For additional information or to schedule interviews, contact
Ian Noble or Mahafrine Petigara
Karyo Edelman (on behalf of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS)
T 604.623.3007
[email protected]
[email protected]