Sweden: Health Minister backs more needle exchanges

Sweden’s Health Minister has backed growing calls for more state-funded needle exchanges for drug addicts, the Local reports.

Gabriel Wikström is lobbing to change rules that mean it is up to municipal (regional) councils to decide whether or not to offer safe needle swapping programmes, which can stop towns and cities from introducing the projects.

The move comes just weeks after Sweden’s Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) called for more syringe and needle exchanges across the country to reduce the risk of addicts contracting hepatitis C and HIV.

Only six cities in Sweden currently offer needle exchanges: Stockholm, Malmo, Lund, Helsingborg, Kalmar and Kristianstad.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency is also calling for improved counselling, drug testing and vaccination services alongside the exchange programmes.

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