Fri, Apr 17, 2009 - Page 2 News List

City councilors upset by needle vending machines

CLEAN SYRINGE CAMPAIGN In an effort to fight HIV, which is mostly spread by needle-sharing in Taiwan, clean needles are available in some Taipei restrooms

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City councilors yesterday lashed out at the Taipei City Government for installing vending machines that sell syringes and condoms in public restrooms near schools, urging the city government to remove them.

Vending machines selling condoms, needles, syringes and the drug substitute methadone have been installed in more than 30 public restrooms in Taipei City, some of which are near schools, making them easily accessible to students, Taipei City councilors Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) and Hung Chien-yi (洪健益) said.

The packages, which cost NT$20, come with instructions from Taipei City’s Health Department, the councilors told a press conference.

“It’s unacceptable that these dangerous needles and condoms can be easily obtained by students. This is a serious threat to the safety of our children and all Taipei residents,” Yen said.

Yen Muh-yong (顏慕庸), a division chief at the department, said installing the vending machines was part of the central government’s program to combat the spread of HIV.

Under the program, several hundred distribution points have been set up across the country to provide syringes and methadone, which is used by recovering drug addicts.

The goal is to ensure drug users have access to clean needles to prevent the spread of HIV and to offer anti-addictives used in quitting drug use, he said.

Department of Health data shows that about 80 percent of Taiwan’s HIV cases are related to drug use, he said.

Yen Muh-yong said the city government had set up the vending machines to help carry out the central government’s policy, but acknowledged that residents, and especially students, could be affected.

He said the department would remove the vending machines from seven public restrooms near schools and would place warning labels on the remaining machines to prevent confusion over their contents.

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