Needling the health issue
FEARS have emerged that a vast number of the hundreds of thousands of free syringes handed out on the Gold Coast each year end up in streets, parks and on beaches.
Queensland Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg challenged Health Minister Gordon Nuttall to account for more than half-a-million free syringes distributed on the Gold Coast during the last financial year.
Mr Nuttal confirmed 508,250 syringes were handed out under the government's Needle and Syringe Program in that period.
This figure marks a 25 per cent increase in syringes compared to the previous year.
"The minister makes much of the free syringe program and the estimated number of HIV and Hepatitis C infections prevented among drug users," Mr Springborg said.
"But he fails in his duty to tell the community where all these needles end up and importantly how they are not being accounted for and are ending up in our streets and parks."
However, a Queensland Health spokeswoman hit back at Mr Springborg's claims, and said the syringes were handed out in packs that included a nonpenetrable container to ensure safe disposal.
The program has been hailed as one of the most successful public health projects in the world with only two per cent of Queenslanders who use syringes to take drugs suffering from a blood-borne infection, compared with as many as 30 per cent in other countries.
The Gold Coast City Council plays a major role in heightening awareness of needles and safe disposal.
For info on what to do about unsafely disposed needles and syringes, call 1800 NEEDLE (1800 633 353).