A new needle and syringe venue, new educational resources on GHB and crystal and support for drug-free community events: just three initiatives to tumble out of ACON’s new drugs strategy.
The strategy, adopted by ACON’s board last month, seeks to broaden the organisation’s work in drug use within the gay and lesbian community.
ACON president Adrian Lovney told Sydney Star Observer that much of the organisation’s drug work to date had focused on short-term harm minimisation, through initiatives such as drug rovers and post-dance-party phone counselling.
We’ve been doing those things for years, but we recognise that we need to broaden that time horizon and look at the harms that are being caused from drugs and alcohol over a longer time period, Lovney said. What’s the harm being caused by drug use, not just in the next 24 hours, but in the next year?
Lovney said the strategy did not aim to take a Nancy Reagan approach or to problematise drug use in the gay and lesbian community, but confront its realities.
Reports suggest recreational drug use in Sydney’s gay community is widespread.
The National Centre in HIV Social Research’s annual report of behaviour for 2002 (which investigates gay men but not lesbians) stated that 73.2 percent of respondents had used recreational drugs at least once in the preceding six months. Seven percent of respondents had injected drugs in the same time period.
The new ACON strategy commits the organisation to working on community drug issues through a variety of initiatives. Many of the initiatives continue the work the organisation already does; some are new.
The strategy reflects the work that we’re already doing but it also maps out the next stage of that work, Lovney said.
Among other initiatives, the policy commits ACON to producing new resources around GHB and crystal use, and promoting drug- and alcohol-free community spaces.
The GHB and crystal resources were necessary to educate users about the drugs, while the issue of drug-free community spaces was an ongoing one for ACON, Lovney said.
We’re conscious that whenever we want to launch anything we do it in a pub, he said. We want to encourage spaces for people that aren’t necessarily about drugs. That’s going to be a work in progress. Hopefully the New Mardi Gras organisers will take that on board, and certainly we will as well.
Another plank in the ACON drug strategy has already been finalised: the needle and syringe program venue at the organisation’s Common-wealth Street office was re-opened eight weeks ago.
Lovney said he was very pleased with how the service was being used, with staff referring over 300 clients to other drug assistance services in the past eight weeks.