Laura Thomas at 415-283-6366 or Tommy McDonald at 510-229-5215</p>
The San Francisco Mayor's Hepatitis C Task Force issued its report a few weeks ago, with strong recommendations for how San Francisco can better address the hepatitis C epidemic here. There are an estimated 12,000 people living with hepatitis C in San Francisco, most of whom do not know that they are infected. San Francisco has the opportunity to ensure that everyone knows their risk, knows their status, has access to hepatitis C treatment and support if they need it, and has the tools and information that they need to protect themselves from hepatitis C. One of those tools, as recommended by the Task Force, is a supervised injection site, where people could consume their drugs with sterile equipment in the presence of medically trained staff.
"Supervised injection facilities reduce HIV and overdose deaths without increasing drug use," says Laura Thomas, deputy state director, San Francisco for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This has been done around the world and it has been proven to work effectively."
Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) are operating in many countries around the world. They are not a new idea and the science has shown that they work. Insite, in Vancouver, British Columbia, has been extensively evaluated and has shown that a SIF can reduce public drug use, hepatitis C and HIV risk behaviors, overdoses, and other health problems, while not increasing crime or drug use.
In fact, Insite increased the number of people entering treatment for their problematic drug use. SIFs are a serious and well-researched approach to a significant problem. Politicians who are committed to reducing the harms that drugs create for our communities would be well served by paying attention to the evidence.
"San Francisco has led the way in dealing with HIV. The City needs to take these recommendations seriously and begin to address hepatitis C with the same courage and leadership it has shown for HIV," Thomas added. "Politics can't trump science in this case. There are too many lives on the line and here will be a serious price for slow learning curve.
"We need elected officials who are not afraid to do the right thing, and who are willing to put all of the options on the table as we fight the spread of hepatitis C and HIV."