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New needle exchange in North Tallinn coming after all

Though unpopular with residents, the new needle exchange in Sitsi Street would make the area safer, ministry officials said.
Though unpopular with residents, the new needle exchange in Sitsi Street would make the area safer, ministry officials said.

A needle exchange in the Sitsi quarter in North Tallinn would contribute to safety in the area, say both the Ministry of Social Affairs and the National Institute for Health Development (TAI) and continue their preparations.

TAI director Annika Veimer said earlier on in August that she believes that the needle exchange crisis in the capital is to blame at least in part for the rising number of HIV infections as well as drug overdoses.

“The provision of needle exchange services in Tallinn is clearly disrupted, and this certainly has effects,” Veimer said. “TAI’s goal is to open new risk reduction centers in Tallinn, first and foremost in North Tallinn and Lasnamäe, where the need [for such services] is great.”

After a disagreement between TAI and the administration of North Tallinn in 2016 there had been no funding for a needle exchange in Paldiski Street, which left the entire borough without one for months. The Tallinn Administrative Court ruled in December last year that the city of Tallinn's order regarding the establishment of a needle exchange point on Paldiski Highway was lawful, but in the end the lack of funding meant it couldn’t be opened.

Now it appears that the new needle exchange will be opened in an apartment building in Sitsi Street. “Taking into account the new HIV infection cases as well as the number of deaths caused by overdoses, it is perfectly clear that there’s the need for a center for prevention. This center can’t be located anywhere else than where the problem occurs,” deputy secretary-general of the Ministry of Social Affairs for health, Maris Jesse, said on Wednesday.

Jesse pointed out that the worries of residents in the area were understandable, but that experience showed that setting up such a center increased the safety of the area as well. There would be new security cameras, the center’s employees would pick up needles, the addicts could get help.

Some 33 percent of all injecting drug addicts live in the North Tallinn borough of the capital, altogether about 1,800 people.

Opening the center therefore didn’t mean creating a new meeting point for junkies, but on the contrary the prevention and damage control would be done where they went anyway, Jesse stressed.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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