Twenty three years ago, in an attempt to slow the spread of HIV among injecting drug users, my colleagues and I started Australia's first needle syringe program. I had previously submitted 13 proposals for a pilot needle syringe program to the NSW Department of Health in the years leading up to this. All my proposals had been rejected. Our pilot needle syringe programs in inner-city Sydney in November 1986 breached the NSW Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act (1985). Although I was interviewed at length by police, no charges were laid against me or my colleagues. Those were very difficult years for me. I was often vilified as I campaigned vigorously for the decision to introduce needle syringe programs to be speeded up.
Today a new study was released, Return on Investment 2: Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of needle and syringe programs in Australia, commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. The study found that every dollar spent on needle and syringe programs saved the states and the Commonwealth four dollars.