Friday, June 13, 2003

Drug law blamed for hep C epidemic

THE federal Government's conservative tough-on-drugs policies have triggered an explosion in hepatitis C infections, a secret health department report has found.

And the disease has become an "epidemic", with half a million Australians likely to have the debilitating virus by 2020.

The paper, prepared by independent experts for the federal Health Department, lashes the Howard Government for "abrogating responsibility" and refusing to provide leadership and resources to fix the "urgent" public health problem.

Health Minister Kay Patterson has kept the report from the public since she received it last November.

But a copy obtained by GKCNN reveals a damning critique of the Government's failure to act.

"The (Government's) strategy has not succeeded in controlling the hepatitis C epidemic in Australia. The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated," it says.

The experts are particularly critical of 'zero tolerance' policies adopted by conservative state and federal leaders.

The "zero tolerance" approach tries to stamp out illicit drug use instead of trying to make their inevitable use safer.

"There is a growing recognition that criminalisation of injecting drug use has contributed to increased transmission rates."

The experts call for a national public awareness campaign and better partnerships with groups working with injecting drug users.

The hepatitis C virus causes chronic liver disease in up to 85 per cent of those infected. It is transmitted through blood with up to 90 per cent of new infections from injecting drug use but rarely spread through sex.

The report calls for drastic government action to boost prevention and safety. "Otherwise too many people will continue to become infected and Australia will not be able to meet the substantial costs of treating and caring for the hepatitis C-affected community in 15 to 20 years' time," it says.

The experts also say spending more money makes good economic sense. "Expenditure on prevention of hepatitis C infection will be offset by future savings on end-stage treatment of hepatitis C-related liver disease and liver transplants."

The expert panel included Howard Thomas, head of the department of medicine at St Mary's Hospital in London, Fran Baum, who heads the public health department at Flinders University, and Michael Levy, the population health director at the NSW Corrections Health Service.

There is no vaccine for the virus. But a new treatment, which boosts the success rate from the present 30 per cent to 60 per cent and is available in many other Western nations, is languishing without taxpayer subsidy in Australia.

Labor senator Jan McLucas said it was "unforgiveable" that Senator Patterson had refused to share the secret report with the public.

"It's simply appalling that she could let this languish in her in-tray when more people are infected every day."

A spokesman for Senator Patterson said part of the report would be released next month, while the Government had allocated $16 million to reduce transmission.

"That's a significant amount of money," he said.

But Ruth Verzeilberg, who contracted the virus from a shared needle while experimenting with heroin as a teenager, said more effort was needed to stop the suffering of people like herself.

"We should be doing so much more as a society to stop people needlessly going through this," she said.

By Serious Infections 13 June 03


MJA - BBCD Outbreaks in NSW prisons
Seems some of our friends in & around Corrections Health Service (CHS) were able to take advantage of a couple of recognised cases of needle sharing by HIV positive prisoners to gather data for a study.

Medicinal cannabis trial approved or not marijuana still remains a big hit! THE nation's first trial of cannabis for medical relief will begin in NSW by the end of the year, a move that Premier Bob Carr said yesterday would stop decent people feeling like criminals.

CWA wants pot legalised
PERCEIVED as the height of conservatism, the Country Women's Association has had a reputation for baking and handicrafts until now. The organisation yesterday confirmed it is seeking to have cannabis legalised for health reasons. A recommendation to be put forward to the annual meeting in May calls for the legalisation of the drug for the treatment of terminally ill patients.

Drunks propel rise in violent crimes! But who promotes drinking really?
Every day NSW police deal with more than 300 violent offences committed by people who are drunk and they say the number is rising. But they don't say because the government promotes alcohol and only alcohol.

Another lethal party drug article...
This is another lethal party drug article by the Daily Telegraph's (DT)'s Super Crime Buster Division, but I'll try to straighten it out a bit so you can understand it.

Poison Ivy: Drugs and Substances
Everything is a drug love, money, vegemite, and honey so why the hang up on coke? Things go better with Coke. at least that's what we're told each and every day by advertising. [?] So why the big hang up on alcohol, amphetamines, cigarettes, marijuana, speed, ecstasy and cocaine?

Police selling drugs? Bikies selling drugs? Pharmacies prescribing drugs Of course there will be criticism when you cross that thin blue line! You have to realise how the government itself has been corrupted because of the drug scene and the money involved.

Drug rehabilitation: Threats, threats and more threats!
But a spokesperson for Citizens Against Being Forced Mr Ihave Amind Ofmyown said, "Major Watters is John Howard's adviser because he's a bully. Citizens make their own decisions about what is best for them and if you don't like that step down."

MPs told of police corruption
Corruption and mismanagement are still entrenched in the NSW Police, and problems at the highest levels are "whitewashed", according to evidence given yesterday to a federal parliamentary committee.

Alcohol is just the beginning
People who start using alcohol by their mid teens are more than twice as likely as others to experiment with different drugs and to become dependent on drugs a major Australian study has found.

Tobacco, alcohol top the drug abuse toll
Tobacco and alcohol accounted for 83 per cent of the cost of drug abuse in Australia, dwarfing the financial impact of illegal drugs, a Commonwealth Government report has found.

NSW police cracked up on antisocial behaviour
Hundreds of extra police will be on the streets of Sydney from this afternoon as part of a major blitz on crime and activities as "antisocial behaviour" says the ABC online last Fri 24 May 2002.

Alcohol pickles your brain
The only two social drugs the Government sanction are cigarettes and alcohol as legal, yet they cause the most damage." He said.