THE Department of Health (DOH) has suspended a program that entails distribution of syringes in a village in Cebu City to prevent the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Senator Grace Poe, after the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee hearing, said the committee asked the health department for a temporary suspension of the “Harm Reduction Strategy.”
Poe added that the program could have serious effects on the efforts of the government in fighting illegal drugs.
The Harm Reduction Strategy is a needle exchange program implemented in Barangay Kamagayan in Cebu City by the non-governmental organization, Population Services International (PSI).
The program is aimed at reducing users of heroin and other drugs who share syringes and use them more than once.
The program was implemented in the village last year, but Senator Vicente Sotto 3rd, said there were reports the distribution of syringes has been going on as early as 2012.
Senator Poe said the program’s objective is to prevent the spread of HIV but it could also encourage drug use.
“If this is a study, we need to have details first, and this should not be a stand-alone program, there should be counselling and rehabilitation,” Poe added.
It was Sotto who brought up the issue in a privilege speech last week, wherein he cited the October 8, 2014, Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Resolution No. 298, approving the proposed research on community-based comprehensive services for people who inject drugs (PWID) in Barangay Kamagayan.
Under the resolution, a 24-month study will be implemented at the said barangay, which was identified as one of the areas with widespread practice of sharing of needles among PWIDs.
Sotto in his speech insisted that the DDB resolution should not be enforced because it is in conflict with the express mandate of Section 12 of Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, which states that a “person who possesses any paraphernalia intended for smoking or injecting any dangerous drugs will be imprisoned from six months to four years and will have to pay a fine of P10,000 to P50,000.”