by Samuel Gibbings, Needle and Syringe Exchange Project Officer
The WA AIDS Council has operated a Needle and Syringe Exchange Program (NSEP) since 1987. The purpose of the service is to reduce harms associated with injecting drug use through the provision of sterile injecting equipment, education and referrals.
The service continues to see an increase in the number of client contacts and equipment distributed. In the 2015-16 period there was an increase of 30.7 per cent (11,297) in client interactions and an increase of 29.2 per cent in equipment distributed (1,724,965).
In order the ensure the service is performing at its best by WA AIDS Council staff a survey was undertaken earlier this year. Results showed that all staff have a good understanding of the core principles of the NSEP: being non-judgemental; understanding the risks involved with injecting drug use; and the available referral pathways to treatment.
In addition, the annual NSEP Client Satisfaction Survey conducted in March this year reflected positively on the delivery of the NSEP service by WA AIDS Council staff. The survey provided clients with an opportunity to give anonymous feedback on the service. Conducted over two weeks, 187 participants were recruited with an acceptance rate of 73.4 per cent.
The survey results showed high levels of satisfaction, with no dissatisfaction. Over:
• 95 per cent agreed that staff and volunteers are friendly and approachable
• 91 per cent agreed that staff and volunteers are knowledgeable
• 93 per cent agreed that staff were efficient
Further comments demonstrate the amount of trust and respect towards NSEP staff and volunteers including:
• “I find the staff totally approachable, efficient and friendly”
• “The particular WAAC Van that comes weekly to Joondalup on Tuesday. The staff was so helpful, but more so the help & advice given to me by Sam who I’ve got to know and like over the last two years or more.”
• “Very happy with this service! 100 per cent”
• “Great service. Non-judgemental.”
• “Always most helpful, non-judgemental nice people operate this service.”
The survey also included a question asking participants what their last drug injected was. This is useful to monitor any changing trends, and as seen in the chart below, methamphetamine was the most common last injected drug at 50 per cent, followed by heroin at 20 per cent.
These results are also similarly reflected in the Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey, which indicated heroin use at 20 per cent and methamphetamine use at 54 per cent for clients accessing NSEPs in Western Australia. Past survey results showed heroin and methamphetamine use at similar levels (around 30 per cent each). Heroin use may have declined in favour of other opiates, opiate replacement therapies, and possibly, although unlikely, methamphetamines. Alternatively, heroin use remains at similar levels, but a disproportionate number of new clients accessing the service identify as methamphetamine users.
Regardless, the increase in the number of people using methamphetamines accessing the service has allowed the WA AIDS Council to respond by increasing the availability of amphetamine based resources at both its fixed sites and the van.
Future surveys will continue to monitor the ever trends and allow us to deliver a service that clients want.