A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. And so it is when the public are fobbed off with headline statements regarding safety that address only one small part of a much bigger issue.
Take, for example, this report in Dartmouth Today. In response to on-going and seemingly worsening problems with drug litter including sharps discarded carelessly in public toilets in Totness.
The immediate reaction was that the public toilets were controversially closed over Christmas and New Year period, after drug addicts left them all in a dangerous condition. Going further, some local councillors are pushing for an charge to be levied, probably 20p, to use the toilets. What will that achieve?
To support their case and ‘reassure’ the public. the report includes a comment from Kat Smithson, director of policy and campaigns at NAT, the National Aids Trust. Smithson states “Additionally, HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs is very low in the UK due to effective harm reduction programmes”, and “there have been no cases anywhere in the world of somebody contracting HIV through a needle stick injury from a needle discarded in a public place.”
True, but what else is there to work about? Sharps injury can result in pyogenic infection, a septic wound, but far worse and now more common than HIV, in Hepatitis C virus infection. Overarching concerns will be the anxiety and potentially debilitating post-traumatic stress that can arise after sharps injury, affecting not only the injured person but parents, partners and the extended family. That will affect many, and can be particularly long-lasting.
So, what do the council do? Let everyone know that these is no big problem, and consider a charge for access to their public toilets. Not exactly helpful is it?
Reading through the report, it comments on discarded sharps but np mention of effects by the council to clear these at frequent intervals and to step up their level of vigilance, to install blue lights that are known to frustrate IV drug users – though they will only go somewhere else and that really isn’t a solution for the larger problem.
How about a secure sharps bin?
And what about the “blood spattered walls”? Have they been cleaned, safely and effectively, and what measures are in place to inspect to sites and deal with any further issues. Are they doing anything to engage with users and steer them toward medical and social support services?
This seems like the South Hams District Council would prefer to invest in a bit of carpet, and sweep the problem away under it, telling the public that it really isn’t a problem, while doing very little else.
Not good. Not good at all.