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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”



Portugal Debates Setting Up Heroin Injecting Rooms in Prison
Agence France Presse
December 24, 2003
Levi Fernandes
A recently released government report recommends Portugal set up
heroin injection rooms in prisons, where widespread drug use is leading
to rising HIV rates among the nation's 14,000 inmates. Nearly one in
two Portuguese prisoners uses drugs and of those who do, 26.8 percent
use injecting drugs like heroin, said the report. Alarmingly, the
report concluded that more than three-quarters of those who use
injecting drugs behind bars share their needles - creating an ideal
environment for the spread of HIV.

Compiled by the office of Portugal's justice ombudsman, the report
says 14 percent of prisoners are infected with HIV and 396 prisoners
have AIDS. Along with other communicable diseases like tuberculosis and
hepatitis, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS helped give Portugal the highest
rate of prisoner deaths in the European Union last year.


To slow the spread of HIV and cut the death rate among prisoners,
the report recommended the government set up injection rooms where
inmates would be provided with clean needles and a place to shoot up in
a supervised setting.
The recommendation was immediately backed by Portugal's lawyers
association and by former UN General Assembly President Diogo Freitas
do Amaral, who currently chairs a commission on prison reform in
Portugal. "There are unique circumstances in prisons which can lead one
to adopt a different approach to drugs than that which is adopted in
the wider society," he said just after the report's release.
Justice Minister Celeste Cardona, however, has flatly rejected the
proposal. Instead, government policy will continue to focus on
addiction treatment programs, including methadone replacement therapy
for heroin addicts, she said.


Fernando Negrao, head of Portugal's Drugs Institute, a branch of
the health ministry that tackles drug addiction, argued that injection
rooms could be effective but only after prisons become less crowded.