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Sotto slams needle program vs HIV

/ 09:24 AM May 17, 2015
Vicente-Sotto

Sen. Vicente Sotto III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has no business approving a program that authorizes the government to distribute syringes and needles to drug addicts in a Cebu City barangay as part of a research study on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, according to Sen. Vicente Sotto III.

Sotto took to the Senate floor on Monday to denounce the program, allowed under an October 2014 DDB resolution, that designated Barangay Kamagayan as a “safe zone” where there will be no arrests for drug paraphernalia possession insofar as the needle and syringe exchange program is concerned, with respect to the registered drug users and Kamagayan health personnel.

The 24-month “scientific and medical study” is being undertaken by the Department of Health, Philippine National AIDS council, the Cebu City local government and Population Services International, and is funded by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

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The study is intended to assess the effectiveness of community-based comprehensive services for people who inject drugs in Barangay Kamagayan. The barangay has been identified as one of key areas of widespread sharing of needles among people who inject drugs, and which has a growing number of reported HIV positive cases.

Sotto said this was related to the “Harm Reduction strategy,” which comes from the Western way of thinking and is being advocated by big international organizations in the Philippines.

The strategy provides that if something cannot be curtailed, it would be better to minimize the harm it creates.

He said there was the thinking among drug users that the spread of HIV/AIDS was due to the sharing of needles. Thus, to prevent its spread, it would be better if the government provided new and clean needles and syringes to the drug users.

But Sotto bristled at that.

“It’s as if we are saying that if we cannot stop a criminal from using a rusty knife, it would be better if the government gave killers clean and stainless knives so that nobody would die from tetanus if he gets stabbed,” he said.

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TAGS: Barangay Kamagayan, Dangerous Drugs Board, DDB, HIV/AIDS, Sen. Vicente Sotto III
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