7 facts about Needle Syringe Programs (NSP) in Australia

Fact 1

The Alcohol and Drug Service at the St. Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst, established the first needle syringe program in Australia in late 1986.  The commencement of the NSP was an act of civil disobedience.  Rather than prosecute the staff involved the New South Wales State Government of the time reviewed the results of the pilot. (ANCD 2006)

Fact 2

By 1988 a national system of needle syringe programs had been established with needle syringe programs operating in every state and territory in Australia. (ANCD 2006)

Fact 3

Needle syringe programs nationally have been subject to not one, but two comprehensive evaluations, measuring their cost effectiveness and direct impact upon reduction in transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Fact 4

It was estimated that during the  period of 2001 – 2009  NSPs have directly averted:

    • 32,050 new HIV infections;
    • 96,667 new Hepatitis C infections

(National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research 2009)

 Fact 5

The latest estimate of cost savings attributable to the financial investment in needle syringe programs in Australia found:

“For every one dollar invested in NSPs, more than four dollars were returned (additional to the investment) in healthcare cost-savings in the short-term (ten years) if only direct costs are included; greater returns are expected over longer time horizons.”

(National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research 2009)

The same evaluation found that the inclusion of productivity savings and other indirect cost savings extended the overall cost savings to $27 for every dollar invested.

Fact 6

Needle Syringe Programs are an effective intervention that are well evidenced in reducing transmission rates of HIV:

“A study conducted between 1978 and 1999 compared HIV prevalence in 103 cities around the world. In the cities that had introduced Needle and Syringe Programs, the HIV prevalence had decreased by an average of 19 per cent annually. In the cities that had not introduced Needle and Syringe Programs, the HIV prevalence had increased by an average of 8 per cent annually.”

(ANEX website)

Fact 7

Between 2007 and 2011 between 75 – 80% of people accessing NSP had also accessed alcohol and other drugs treatment.  (Iverson & Maher 2012)  NSPs offer a gateway to a range of health services including alcohol and other drug treatment services.  Injecting drug users are often marginalised from such health services, especially when their injecting drug use co occurs with other life factors that can compound marginalisation such as homelessness or mental illness.


ANCD (Australian National Council on Drugs) website, Australia commemorates 20 years of needle syringe programs. http://www.ancd.org.au/News-and-announcements-2006/australia-commemorates-20-years-of-needle-syringe-programs.html

Anex  website, Needle Syringe Programs (NSP) http://www.anex.org.au/harm-reduction/needle-and-syringe-programs-nsps/

Iversen, J. and Maher, L. (2012) Australian Needle and Syringe Program National Data Report  2007-2011. The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales,

National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research (2009) ‘Return on investment 2: Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of needle and syringe programs in Australia’, University of New  South Wales, Sydney

One Response to “7 facts about Needle Syringe Programs (NSP) in Australia”
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  1. […] fails to comprehend (or wilfully ignores) is that the availability of sterile injecting equipment dramatically increases public health by decreasing the risk of transmission of blood borne viruses: “A study conducted between 1978 […]

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