Needle Syringe Programs

In Ontario, there are 36 regional Public Health Units. All regions, plus approximately 180 satellite locations, provide injection drug users with sterile, single-use injection equipment. All Needle Syringe Programs provide needles, syringes, alcohol swabs, acidifiers, easy release and non-latex tourniquets, filters, cookers and sterile water to clients in the quantity desired by the service user. While each Needle Syringe Program acts as a needle exchange site, meaning clients can drop off their used supplies for safe disposal as well as replenish their equipment, in order to gain access to all of the supplies and services, clients are not required to ‘trade in’ used equipment for new.

In addition to harm reduction supplies, Needle Syringe Program service users are provided with educational materials and resources surrounding harm reduction, health and social services and non-judgmental, equitable service.

Needle Syringe Programs across the province of Ontario are strongly encouraged to follow the best practice guidelines for needle and syringe distribution and program policies1:

Best Practice

Best Practice:

Use a sterile needle and syringe for each injection to reduce transmission of HIV, hepatitis C (HCV), hepatitis B (HBV), and other pathogens

Program Policies:

  • Place no limit on the number of needles provided per client, per visit, without requiring clients to return used needles
  • Encourage clients to return and/or properly dispose of used needles and syringes
  • Offer a variety of needle and syringe types by gauge, size, and brand that meet the needs of clients
  • Educate clients about the risks of using non-sterile needles
  • When distributing needles, offer all other supplies necessary for safer injection

While not distributed by the OHRDP, it is imperative for all Needle Syringe Program service providers to be aware of the safe and proper use of needles and syringes, proper disposal practices, and the dangers associated with the individual reuse and sharing of these pieces of equipment. Please contact your local Public Health Unit and/or NSP for more information.

1. Strike C, Hopkins S, Watson T, Gohil H, Young S, Buxton J et al. Best practice recommendations for harm reduction programs: needle and syringe distribution, other injecting equipment distribution, safer crack kit distribution (interim version). 2012.