The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, in partnership with the Toronto Community Hep C Program (TCHCP), invited people with lived experience of hepatitis C to take part in an art project called The Face of Our Story. In that project, clay tiles depicting stories of lived experience would be displayed at the museum on World Hepatitis Day, July 28, 2016. This is the story of Signe and Tom who participated in the event.
The day arrived when we met with museum staff, were given a tour, and the project was explained to us. We were nervous. We were proud to be part of this experience, but at the same time unsure of our surroundings and what was expected of us. None of us had ever put on an art show in a museum. We spoke in hushed tones and experienced a feeling of reverence as we saw the beautiful work of other artists. We exchanged glances and thought, “Uh oh! What are we doing here?”
British Columbia, Vancouver Island in particular, is in the midst of health tragedy that many of us find hard to describe. In one sense, we can trace the beginning of this crisis to Thursday, April 14th, 2016 when the chief medical office, flanked by the B.C. Minister of Health, declared a public health emergency to address what had already been four terrible months of overdose-related deaths. Since then, I have been privy to receiving periodic updates from the B.C. Coroner Service on the ever-climbing death toll—the most recent post released mid-September.
On a personal note, this ever-escalating human tragedy started for me on December 21st, 2015, three weeks after the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria had stolen from their premises what has since been described as the largest theft of fentanyl in the history of the Vancouver Island Health Authority. On that afternoon of December 21st, the body of a much-liked client was discovered in a parkade less than a block from the region’s largest needle exchange. He died of an overdose.
In Canada today, prisoners who inject drugs need to share needles, many of which have been used numerous times by other prisoners. Without access to sterile injection equipment, rates of HIV and hepatitis C virus are much higher behind bars than in the broader community. Prison-based needle and syringe programs (PNSPs) are an important way to address this public health problem, yet Canadian correctional authorities often claim they won’t work. A recent study demonstrates that PNSPs are indisputably feasible in Canada and should be implemented now.
A new report, On Point: Recommendations for Prison-Based Needle and Syringe Programs in Canada, outlines the findings of a two-year study that involved consultation with a range of diverse stakeholders, including former prisoners themselves. The research was conducted by representatives from the Department of Criminology at Ryerson University, PASAN (a community-based AIDS service organization that provides community development, education, and support to prisoners and ex-prisoners in Ontario), and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network (one of the world’s leading organizations tackling the legal and human rights issues related to HIV).
Over the past year, advocates or elected officials in Montreal, Ottawa, Victoria, Baltimore, New York City, Ithaca (NY), Seattle, San Francisco, Glasgow and four cities in Ireland have called for the implementation of supervised injection services. More recently, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown recommended that the Board of Health start a community consultation process toward establishing supervised injection services within three existing facilities in the city. The Board voted unanimously in favour. As the lead investigators of the TOSCA study (the Toronto and Ottawa Supervised Consumption Assessment), we support Dr. McKeown’s proposal and look forward to the opening of these services in Toronto.
L’administration de naloxone, un composé chimique qui arrête efficacement les effets de la surdose d’opioïdes, de façon temporaire, est recommandée par l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé pour utilisation en cas de surdose d’opioïdes. Au Canada, à l’heure actuelle, la naloxone est offerte uniquement sous forme injectable et il faut une ordonnance pour s’en procurer; elle ne peut être administrée qu’à la personne nommée sur l’ordonnance. Afin d’élargir l’accessibilité de la naloxone pour répondre au nombre croissant de surdoses d’opioïdes, au Canada, et après un examen des données relatives à la santé et à l’innocuité, Santé Canada a proposé un changement à la liste des médicaments vendus sur ordonnance, de façon à autoriser l’utilisation sans ordonnance de la naloxone dans le cas précis d’urgences liées à la surdose d’opioïdes hors du milieu hospitalier. Une consultation publique sur cette proposition a été ouverte et, si le changement du statut demeure appuyé par les données recueillies lors de la consultation, le changement sera finalisé.
Le Blogue de CATIE présente des perspectives et opinions des personnes et organismes qui travaillent ou collaborent bénévolement à la réponse du Canada au VIH et à l’hépatite C.