Jesse Canales

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016

Group urges opioid users to clean syringes to avoid Hepatitis C

PHOENIX – Shared syringes can lead to shared diseases among opioid users, according to a Phoenix organization determined to improve safety.

Sonoran Prevention Works wants to decrease the spread of Hepatitis and other diseases among opioid users and others who share syringes. The group conducts seminars about the need to dispose of syringes or at least safely clean them, and hands out “harm-reduction kits” to promote better safety for drug users.

The free kits include cotton filters, alcohol wipes, Bandaids, other common drugstore items and medical supplies that aren’t easily accessible like tourniquets and Naloxone. Pharmacy employees questioned customers who asked for them, said Haley Coles, executive director of the advocacy group.

“People felt dehumanized and they left and shared needles with other people,” Coles said. “That’s just kind of the recurring theme throughout people who are infected with Hepatitis through needle sharing in Phoenix.”

The Centers for Disease Control in 2015 found opioid users were 21 percent more likely to be infected with Hepatitis C than non-users.

Sonoran Works leaders said something as simple as a Band-Aid or alcohol wipes can make all the difference in stopping the spread of diseases among opioid users.

Volunteers  and workers for Sonoran Prevention Works prepare syringe cleaning kits at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ. (Photo by Jesse Canales/Cronkite News)

Volunteers and workers for Sonoran Prevention Works prepare syringe cleaning kits at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ. (Photo by Jesse Canales/Cronkite News)

“I was getting tired of seeing that and seeing them struggle. I knew I wanted to help,” said Sydney Craik, a volunteer with the group.

Craik said she always wanted to be a nurse, just like her mother. Her mother’s bedtime stories about Canadian nurses in the 1970s handing out clean syringes to opioid users in alleys inspired Craik.

“I remember thinking of how awesome and how cool they were,” Craik said. “This kind is of my way of doing that.”

The organization doesn’t give out new syringes but leaders said they intend to do so soon.

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