needle and syringe

Prison-Based Needle and Syringe Program Guidelines

Community-based Research-in-Residence Recipient:  Emily van der Meulen

Community Partners: PASAN (a community based AIDS-service organization for prisoners and former prisoners) and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

What is this research about?

The prevalence of HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) in Canadian federal prisons is estimated to be much higher than in the general population (10X and 30X respectively). Within prisons, current policies make sterile needles and syringes difficult to obtain, significantly increasing the risk of HIV and HCV transmission. To address this public health risk, prison-based needle and syringe programs have been introduced in over 60 prisons in more than ten countries worldwide.

This 12-month community-based participatory research project explored how a Canadian prison-based needle and syringe program might operate. Through interviews and focus groups it gathered feedback from former prisoners in Ontario as well as from select harm reduction workers, medical professionals, and Indigenous leaders from across Canada. OHTN researcher-in-residence Emily van der Meulen from Ryerson University’s Department of Criminology worked with staff from PASAN and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network to conduct the consultation and develop recommendations.


The project produced comprehensive recommendations about how prison-based needle and syringe programs could be introduced in Canada. This report has created evidence for a national campaign in support of such programs, with nearly 250 endorsing organizations and associations.

OHTN Support:

This project was supported by a one-year researcher-in-resident grant to Emily van der Meulen of $75,000 awarded in 2014.


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