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Injected drug boom in aboriginal communities

Aboriginal health risk from WA drug surge
Photo: Aboriginal health risk from WA drug surge
A health professional has warned of an HIV and hepatitis C epidemic in Aboriginal communities if medical resources are not used to target drug injecting.

Rising levels of injecting drug use in Aboriginal communities could lead to an epidemic of HIV and hepatitis C if the government does not rethink the way it delivers key services.

James Ward of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute says increased levels of drug injecting in indigenous communities paired with a contraction in health services pose a serious threat.

"If we don't change the way we are delivering our services, the potential for HIV and hepatitis C to rapidly escalate in our communities is a real scenario - we need to get on top of it," Associate Professor Ward told AAP at a medical conference in Perth on Tuesday.
Prof Ward said the drugs being injected in indigenous communities were predominantly amphetamine-based, whereas heroin was more prevalent among non-Aboriginal injecting drug users.

"Injecting is a major problem in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities," he said.

"It's escalating."

Prof Ward said urgent action was needed in remote communities that were currently not equipped to handle a drug or health epidemic of this scale.

"We will be behind the eight ball before we even start and then you've got an HIV epidemic fuelled by injecting drug use, which doesn't discriminate in small populations.

"If we are forcing people off their traditional lands into fringe-dwelling arrangements without adequate housing, it is just going to escalate issues like this."

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