Story by Sharon Vanhouwe, MyCowichanValleyNow.com.

VICTORIA, B.C- Island Health is launching a campaign to encourage people who use needles to return them safely.

The slogan is “make it your gig to return your rig”.

Island Medical Health officer, Dr. Shannon Waters said the vast majority of needles are properly disposed of.

She said health officials know that from used needle counts done in our communities, but, Waters admits, there are some sharps that are not properly disposed of.

Waters admits needle exchange programs, are not true “needle exchanges”.

She said the reason needles are given out is to prevent the transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and C and if users are turned away because they don’t have a needle to exchange the purpose of the program is defeated.

She said there is a lot of public anxiety about discarded needles but there is a very low risk of infection and there’s been no reported transmissions of HIV following an injury by a needle in the community.

Needles can be dropped off at the following locations:

· local public health unit

· harm reduction sites

· needle disposal box

If you do want to pick up a needle:

-don’t try to replace the cap on needles
-don’t snap, break or bend needles
-pick up needle with care, use work gloves and tongs if available
-hold needle point away from you
-put needle in a metal or hard plastic container with a lid (i.e. product or drink bottle)
-replace cap on container securely and label it
-wash hands thoroughly with soap and water
-drop off the sealed container at your local public health unit or at a community drop box