Closing of Glasgow’s Central Station Needle Exchange

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Monday 25th September 2017

Following the announcement by the Minister for Public Health Aileen Campbell on behalf of the Scotrail Alliance that they will reconsider the closure of the Glasgow Central Needle Exchange, HIV Scotland, NAT (National AIDS Trust) and the Hepatitis C Trust have written to the CEO of Network Rail to urge that the programme be reopened for the duration of the reconsideration process.

This call has been backed by Alison Thewliss, MP for central Glasgow.

Read the letter here [PDF - 85kB].

The needle exchange was set up last July to respond to the HIV outbreak among people who inject drugs in Glasgow’s Central station was forced to close this week.

The service provided by Boots was forced to shut by Network Rail, who owns the station despite objections from NHS, Police Scotland, Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) and the Cross Party group on Drugs and Alcohol Misuse. The Central Station needle exchange is one of the busiest in the city due to its longer opening hours and central location.

HIV Scotland is concerned about the decision and believes that closing the exchange during the middle of an outbreak could have a detrimental effect on people who inject drugs and could result in increased numbers of new cases of HIV.

Needle exchanges have been an integral part of Scotland’s HIV response since the beginning of epidemic in the 1980s. The first exchange in Scotland was set up in Edinburgh in 1987 to respond to the outbreak of HIV among people who use drugs and since then, clean needle programmes have been credited with substantial reductions in the sharing of equipment and, as a result, significantly reducing the risk of HIV.

The World Health organisation list clean needle programmes first on their list of essential services for HIV and hepatitis C prevention and care for people who inject drugs. There is strong evidence for the effectiveness of clean needle programmes in reducing HIV.

By not prioritising the health and social needs of those at risk this is also a human rights issue. Needle exchange programmes are not only an essential public health intervention, but also enhance the right to health of people who inject drugs.

HIV Scotland will continue to work with decision makers to discuss how best to respond to the situation.