Floppy Fascism

Since announcements that the Abbott government will from January 2016 introduce a “no jab, no pay” policy, noting the increasing misuse of particular terms became inescapable.

Fascism, Nazism, Nazi, Fascist, Mandatory, Forced, Freedom. These words are being used increasingly by anti-vaccine lobbyists to describe changes in public health policy. Changes planned to protect the wider community from the impact of increased vaccine preventable disease notification consonant with lower herd immunity.

The words are being used incorrectly due to error born of ignorance by some, and plain cunning to create fear and loathing by others. By that I mean the terms are employed to elicit maximum effect even though their association with the proposed policy is absurdly tenuous and patently wrong.

forced vaccinations_gas mask

For this reason I’ve come to muse over it as “Floppy Fascism”, for want of a description. Take away the sneering thugs on social media, the logical fallacies contending that democratic rights and freedom are at risk. The same conduct was evident in the USA in the lead up to and after the signing of SB277. Clearly from reading this there is no “mandatory vaccination” – nor mandatory any hint of impending vaccination checkpoints as somberly depicted below.

mandatory_vaccine

Indeed, to get an idea simply turn to Melbourne Australia and the public response to a poorly prepared press release indicating the silly Border Force would be checking visas on Melbourne Streets. The Abbott government’s disdain for refugees and it’s hype over border protection was likely to create the mess it did. But the lesson is that if Australian rights are under threat, we will know. The world will know. Who won’t know? Why… the government. Who else?

So, back to the rot about Nazism and those wicked vaccines.

Despite the ranting, hysteria and proclamations of freedoms crushed under mandatory vaccination there is indeed no mandatory vaccination. In both Australia and the USA the choice to not vaccinate remains. What is unfolding in front of us are nothing more than the consequences of those who, for whatever misguided reason, insist upon conscientious objection to, and the spreading of lies about, mass vaccination.

In Australia from January 2016 “conscientious objection” will be removed as an exemption category for childcare payments (Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate) and the Family Tax Benefit Part A end-of-year supplement. Consecutive states are also making vaccination compulsory for children to attend day care, under the “no jab, no play” laws. Western Australia has rejected this to date as “not proper”.

Ignore the passive-aggressive support behind that gentle Michael Leunig mask and his offensive Fascist Epiphany cartoon, the genuine manifestation of Godwin’s Law based upon flawed thinking. Replace the intuitive magnetism of floppy fascism with reproducible, falsifiable, cold, calm evidence and the notion of Health Fascism collapses like a house of cards in a slow drizzle.

Fascism most importantly, is a dictatorial system of government. Key elements stand out in basic definition:

A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

The most striking example of Fascism is the government of Mussolini; Italy 1922 – 1943. Other features are active racism, upholding the belief of supremacy of the Fascist ethnic group and unquestioned obedience to an individual leader. Thus:

The term Fascism was first used of the totalitarian right-wing nationalist regime of Mussolini in Italy (1922–43), and the regimes of the Nazis in Germany and Franco in Spain were also fascist. Fascism tends to include a belief in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group, a contempt for democracy, an insistence on obedience to a powerful leader, and a strong demagogic approach.

One may be familiar with contempt for democracy and social responsibility manifested by anti-vaccine activists, passive aggressive demand for obedience and the demagogic belief in Andrew Wakefield, Sherri Tenpenny, Barbara Loe Fisher, Australia’s Meryl Dorey and more.

Most commonly has been the use of memes, social media posts and conspiracy rants likening features of Nazi Germany to mass vaccination. Other features have been the nonsensical “floppy fascist” commentary postulating that “the unvaccinated” may find themselves with an identifying patch, as did the Jews in Fascist Germany prior to and during WWII.

Another feature I’ve notice receive extra currency, despite already being a long time favourite of antivaccinationists is the rewording of Martin Niemöller’s famous poem. First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out – because I was not a Socialist. This is not new. I remember a deft hand at reproducing works such as Martin Walker’s Health Fascism in Australia, July 2010.

Meryl Dorey of (the then) AVN later wrote Make an informed vaccination choice, March 2, 2012. On July 20th 2012 one Tom wrote to “Admin”. He was concerned about “the vilification of people who choose not to vaccinate their children in the mainstream media” and the inclusion of polls inquiring after reader views on mandatory vaccination (Please note it’s vilification in mainstream media, not vaccination of children in mainstream media).

Dorey replies in floppy fascist style that were the AVN not there did Tom really believe, “the people trying to take away your rights would go away? Wouldn’t vaccination be more likely to be compulsory without the AVN opposing it?” Purportedly the AVN has been “so successful in helping parents become aware of their rights and of the scientifically-based downside to vaccinations.”

She argues it is AVN success that has brought sustained activity against and exposure of the AVN, contending, “… the attacks are a sign of their fear of our success – not of our failure.” She adds:

And if the AVN weren’t here, vaccination would have been compulsory years ago because back in 1997, the government was trying to bring this in and it is only via our lobbying for the conscientious objection clause, that it did not become a reality.

Oh really?

And before we forget Martin Niemöller, Dorey continued:

Martin Niemöller_July2012AVN

To diverge a little, keeping pace today with the “fascist vaccinators” (shall we say) is an almost identical drama unfolding with respect to fluoridation of water supply. The mayor of Lismore in NSW, Jenny Dowell was assaulted on June 20th this year. Since Lismore City Council decided to fluoridate the town’s water supply in December 2014 there have been episodes of verbal abuse and threats.

However on this occasion an out of control 43 year old woman bailed the mayor up to unleash her verbal concerns about fluoride. The mayor had to leave and as she was getting into her car, the woman slammed the door into her head, called her a “f…ing bitch” and scurried away. The episode left a tender aftermath on Jenny Dowell’s cheek and ear. It isn’t surprising that since the decision was made to fluoridate the water, Mayor Dowell has been subject to “more than a dozen verbal attacks”.

The content of these attacks? Unsurprisingly Jenny Dowell informed The Northern Star:

“I’ve been called Genocide Jenny, I’ve been called Hitler…”

So it’s no surprise memes such as these exist. In fact the central claim is immediate Godwin’s Law at play.

fluoride_hitler

In a piece entitled Beware the violent antis – Lismore Mayor physically assaulted, reasonablehank draws on Jenny Dowell’s observation that public office came with the consequences of being seen differently by “some people”. Not seen as a person, or worthy of normal, decent behaviour.

“You’re fair game”, she said. As Hank notes this resonates uncomfortably with the history of respect and mimicry the AVsN has for Scientology.

So what drives such aggressive conspiracy tones? The evidence needed to condemn vaccines is 100% absent. No vaccine is 100% effective and any vaccine presents a miniscule risk. Yet the risk-benefit ratio is so far in support of vaccines that the discussion of vaccinating vs not vaccinating is pointless to have. Our grandparents lived with the constant fear of vaccine preventable diseases taking lives or making children very, very sick.

We live with the luxury of pretending they make our kids sick. This is not to say there are no reactions. There are at a minuscule rate. The present claims of injury by anti-vaccine activists of frequent and very harmful injuries are incorrect and/or intentionally deceiving.

So, without the evidence they need the anti-vaccine lobby commonly fabricates “vaccine injury” rates. The content of vaccines are purposely fabricated and/or the effect of vaccine ingredients are presented as highly dangerous. Judy Wilyman who lobbies against the HPV vaccine insists today’s generation of children “are the sickest” we have seen. She readily instills fear over trace elements in vaccines. Despite the fiction of this quote, Wilyman has used it to instill fear into parents.

How does a trace amount of mercury combined with a trace amount of aluminium adjuvant react in an infants body? They don’t know. It is counter-intuitive to suggest adding toxins to infant’s bodies makes them healthier. It doesn’t make them healthier. Black is not white.

Source W.A. Audio  (at 26min)

The scale of deception here is stunning. Health authorities “don’t know” how vaccine “toxic” components “react” following vaccination? Then from a PhD student the audience is actually led to form a conclusion based upon intuition. Intuition! Not science, dear reader, but intuition. And why? Because Wilyman has decided trace element vaccine components known across the globe to be absolutely safe, are “toxic”. Yes, that meaningless marketing word that we cannot really define.

Sidestepping the role of antigens, Ms. Wilyman’s feelpinions focus on “toxins” that sound nasty, so must therefore be unhealthy. After all – black is not white.

Floppy Fascism includes the unquestioned notion that governments, health authorities and evidence based medical institutions will harm the populace.

An excellent example of completely ludicrous abuse of terms from the Fascist dictatorships responsible for WWII is the recent use of “Gestapo” by Sherri Tenpenny. Thanks to @reasonable_hank for tweeting what goes on in Tenpenny’s mind.

Tenpenny_Gestapo

Why did she choose “gestapo”? The Gestapo were:

The German secret police under Nazi rule. It ruthlessly suppressed opposition to the Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe and sent Jews and others to concentration camps. From 1936 it was headed by Heinrich Himmler.

The specificity of the Gestapo role is touched on above. They existed to solidify Nazi rule and acted to identify and eliminate any potential opposition to Nazi supremacy. Tenpenny strongly likens a call by the American Nurses Association to have their members protected, and to protect their patients from vaccine preventable disease to the activity of a dictatorship. Perhaps she sees the ANA as an enforcement arm of Fascist health authorities.

Gestapo

Consequences of wide acceptance of this mindset may lead to violence, harm and/or vandalism perpetrated against public health and/or civic authorities due to the belief the individuals and institutions are genuinely perpetrating crimes against democratic peace. In short the continued peddling of this mindset, along with the efforts to sustain the belief of being victims may easily lead to more events such as the assault of Lismore Mayor, Jenny Dowell or indeed worse.

The escalating reference to senior members of the Nazi party and the likening of Nazi human experimentation and/or Josef Mengele to vaccination in Australia is appalling. This again, is not without history. The reasoning follows the line that vaccines have never been properly tested, and never tested in randomised controlled trials (both false).

Antivaccinationists insist the components of vaccines include poisonous elemental heavy metals, dangerously high amounts of other heavy metals (such as Al), carcinogenic levels of poisons (e.g.; formaldehyde), unstable biological material (the false claim of foetal cells and animal tissue), and that all these have never been monitored over long periods (incorrect). It is claimed that vaccine viral material is poorly understood and of course, “too much, too soon”.

It thus follows, that essentially an experiment is underway. Recall Wilyman’s false assertion above that “they don’t know” how trace elements do or do not effect infants and children.

In this present anti-vaccine cry of persecution one may well anticipate, and find, reference to The Nuremberg Code. Briefly put The Nuremberg Code is ten points that were accepted after The Doctor’s Trial held during the Nuremberg Trials post WWII. They constitute research ethics for human experimentation. The Nuremberg Code is not accepted as law globally or in the USA, Germany or the UK. Along with the Declaration of Helsinki it constitutes the format of the USA Code of Federal Regulations of the Department of Health and Human Services. This code oversees federally funded human research in the USA.

It is true to say that The Nuremberg Code has been incorporated into the law of individual states in various countries. One such state is California. It remains one of medical ethics most important documents. Yet in reality The Nuremberg Code is no friend to the anti-vaccination movement. Their constant insistence for a trial of “vaccinated vs not vaccinated” would not pass an ethics test using the ten points of The Nuremberg Code.

These are:

1    Required is the voluntary, well-informed, understanding consent of the human subject in a full legal capacity.
2    The experiment should aim at positive results for society that cannot be procured in some other way.
3    It should be based on previous knowledge (like, an expectation derived from animal experiments) that justifies the experiment.
4    The experiment should be set up in a way that avoids unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injuries.
5    It should not be conducted when there is any reason to believe that it implies a risk of death or disabling injury.
6    The risks of the experiment should be in proportion to (that is, not exceed) the expected humanitarian benefits.
7    Preparations and facilities must be provided that adequately protect the subjects against the experiment’s risks.
8    The staff who conduct or take part in the experiment must be fully trained and scientifically qualified.
9    The human subjects must be free to immediately quit the experiment at any point when they feel physically or mentally unable to go on.
10  Likewise, the medical staff must stop the experiment at any point when they observe that continuation would be dangerous.

Update: Sept. 1st. Facebook’s Vaccine Resistance Movement.
nuremberg_facebookThis post highlights the significant flaw in the anti-vaccine movement’s continual citation of sections of, but particularly Item One of The Nuremberg Code. That flaw?

Mass vaccination is not a human experiment. Indeed the conscientious objection to vaccination based upon manifestly erroneous beliefs and opinions is somewhat experimental in the vaccine/anti-vaccine dynamic.

Reasoning with certain mindsets appears pointless. These entries follow:

eugenic culling3

Striking a Walter White theme for his profile Paul seems to believe vaccination is “planetary culling”. By that I guess he means global culling, not planetary as opposed to say, Lunar Culling.

End Update

Prior to widespread effective mass vaccination one manner of managing outbreaks was quarantine. Judy Wilyman has previously misquoted Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet. One reality of the time in which Macfarlane Burnet worked and researched was the quarantine of individuals with infectious disease.

I do wonder how today’s self-righteous anti-vaccine warriors would weigh up the balance of non-negotiable quarantine or access to a vaccine that would provide immunity to diseases citizens were regularly quarantined in response for. Quarantined for their own safety or quarantined by order of the state.

In reality the changes in legislation are a reaction to the public health damage caused by the anti-vaccine lobby. The damage they have caused is due to absurd pseudoscience, fear and deception. There is no risk of forced vaccination. There is no fascism. There are no mandatory health changes under way.

Little wonder then, that their only response is Floppy Fascism.

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Active Skepticism at this years national convention

This years Australian Skeptics National Convention looks set to cover a huge range of topics.

Active skepticism – changing for the better is the theme, and subjects involving skeptic and science activists and advocates loom large.

Anti-vaccination, non-evidence based alternatives to medicine, attacks on medical science, science and reason itself will feature during keynotes and panel discussion. Consumer scams, regulation of therapeutic goods, dodgy new age diagnostics, the changing role of social media, upcoming challenges and changes and more, more, more.

Along with Aussie favourites such as Ken Harvey, Dr. Rachie, Richard Saunders, Adam vanLangenberg, Lynne Kelly, Chrissy Wilson, etc will be James Randi, D.J. Grothe, Brian Thompson, Rebecca Watson and more.

Grab all the details and ticketing information from the video below and remember to keep up with developments.

Dates: Friday November 30th to Sunday December 2nd.

More information at Victorian Skeptics.

AuSkepCon is on Facebook and you can follow @auskepcon on Twitter.

Reject that and you belong in hell

In God We Teach follows the story of a high school student who recorded his history teacher proselytising for Jesus.

In Kearny New Jersey, student Matthew LaClair recorded teacher David Paszkiewicz preaching about Jesus. An avowed “anti-Darwinist”, who places god before all and concludes academic freedom includes the freedom to preach and not teach, at one time Paszkiewicz informs his history students:

He (Jesus) did everything in his power to make sure you could go to heaven. So much so that he put your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you and is saying ‘please accept me, believe’.

You reject that and you belong in hell.

During a high school christian club meeting Paszkiewicz allows students to articulate the fundamentalist view that immorality thrives through “endorsing” evolution. One student suggests that people would, “… grow cold and empty. You grow cold to people with disabilities. You grow cold to an after life. There is no after life. Why not do what you want? Why not steal? Why not assault people?”.

Paszkiewicz calmly tells the student attendees;

The world doesn’t understand this but believers do. Teaching Darwinism, is something that’s going to take peoples eyes off of god, especially Jesus Christ. […]

It may be against the law to teach Creationism as fact, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

With the town backing the wayward teacher, Matthew LaClair does what clearly had to be done to defend the right to public education and the separation of church and state.

An excellent documentary by vic Losick. Read more at In God We Teach or visit Vimeo.

Meryl Dorey fights to keep misleading title

I have seen evidence that there was even an attempt to have me deported from Australia via complaints to the Dept of Immigration…

– Meryl Dorey adds another angle to her profile as a Freedom Fighter –

Not for the first time, a salient point was serendipitously driven home on the Facebook page Stop The Australian Vaccination Network.

Last Friday night a young lady unleashed some criticism that highlights the cunning purpose of the Australian (anti) Vaccination Network’s name.

Apologies for the overt racism in there. This is far from the neatest example but it does show how persuasive first impressions can be. No doubt this has been Meryl Dorey’s intent all along. To divert attention away from her role as an antivaccine lobbyist.

Simply claiming to not be antivaccine is rather pointless however. Years ago (circa 2005) the proud antivaccine conspiracy group Vaccine Truth made a mockery of the USA NIIC phrase. Meryl took the opportunity to lift the same phrase straight from them.

Before becomming the Australian Vaccination Network in 1996, her group of antivaccine lobbyists was the Vaccine Awareness Network. Thus I was slightly amused to see an AVN contributor suggest to Meryl they switch to “Australian Vaccine Awareness Network”. More amusingly this was supported by Meryl’s most vocal Pit Poodle.

The misleading name has secured media attention and a cornucopia of false balance. Genuinely concerned and in-need parents have been fooled. People have donated money believing advanced safety testing of vaccines was an AVN priority. They scored a Charitable Fundraising Authority. Life was quite comfortable until Stop The AVN formed and exposed schemes, scams, fraud and theft.

This led in part to an investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission. It found that the AVN website:

  • Provides information that is solely anti-vaccination
  • Contains information that is incorrect and misleading
  • Quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous

Under the Health Care Complaints Act 1993, the HCCC had recommended the AVN put an unambiguous disclaimer on its website to convey:

  • The AVN’s purpose is to provide information against vaccination, in order to balance what it believes is the substantial amount of pro-vaccination information available elsewhere.
  • The information provided by the AVN should not be read as medical advice.
  • The decision about whether or not to vaccinate should be made in consultation with a health care provider.

Whilst the AVN insist that the HCCC findings were “overturned” on appeal, this is not the case. A Supreme Court ruling found the HCCC had acted outside it’s jurisdiction in posting a public warning. Ms. Dorey’s aim to have the findings abolished was firmly rejected. The HCCC public warning was removed.

The AVN disclaimer is available here, which essentially covers the points sought by the HCCC. There is thus no doubt. The AVN is an antivaccination lobby group. They are antivaccine, against vaccination, purport to offer alternatives to vaccination and falsely claim to posses a “data base” of vaccine injuries.

Recently as Dorey promoted her latest conspiracy-themed seminar series there was renewed focus on the salient point in question. What Jane McCredie has referred to as:

This country’s most prominent anti-vaccination group, the confusingly named Australian Vaccination Network…

Medical Observer recently reported under Anti-vax lobby rejects AMA call for a name change:

Australian College of Midwives executive officer Ann Kinnear told MO her organisation forwarded an email invitation to an AVN event to about 1400 NSW members before angry midwives told her the Health Care Complaints Commission had in 2009 declared AVN an anti-immunisation lobby.

“Subsequent information that’s come to hand has made me realise it’s a mistake,” Ms Kinnear said. […]

“If a major health organisation understandably is taken in, members of the public would have little hope of realising that they were not accessing independent, credible advice,” AMA (NSW) CEO Fiona Davies said.

Dr Brian Morton, chair of the AMA’s council for general practice, said AVN’s name was “duplicitous, it confuses the public, they are anti-vaccination and they certainly don’t report the evidence”.

Last weekend a suitably tabloid themed heading from the Sunday Telegraph carried some further developments. Doctors unite to smash the anti-vaccine group:

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner and Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts have been urged to force the change on the NSW-registered group in a letter signed by Associate Professor of La Trobe University Dr Ken Harvey.

His call is backed by experts from the Australian Medical Association and the University of Sydney.

As the AVN is registered with the Office of Fair Trading the government can in fact order a name change.

Dorey of course continues with the line the AVN is not antivaccination but “pro-choice”.

Predictably Ms. Dorey has afforded her critics ownership of the term “smash”, despite it appearing only in the headline of the story.

She must have been delighted. In a rambling, stumbling diatribe Dorey included:

They would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to date trying to “Smash” our small, volunteer-run organisation… We are David to their Goliath and because we stand for truth, freedom and democracy… […]

The idea that a group of doctors can unite to SMASH an organisation that questions a medical procedure sounds more like economic protectionism than true concern to me.

Wait. Economic protectionism? As in restriction of international trade? Subsidising locally produced goods or produce? Taxing imports via the application of tariffs? I think, comrade, that Meryl has been hanging out with her fellow freedom fighters at Conspiracy Central a bit too much.

Which gets to the reasons a name change has become more and more an issue of public safety. The AVN has become less and less about opposing vaccines and merely spreading fear and confusion on the topic. This is the result of a hard working group of volunteers, concerned GPs, medical organisations, certain journalists, reputable parenting forums and the self sabotage of the AVN by Meryl Dorey herself.

Today Meryl Dorey can be found on conspiracy podcasts playing laser tag warriors with some of the more unhinged members of society. If not skepgoating individual skeptics as part of an organised hate group, it’s absurdities such as the above claim that, “hundreds of thousands of dollars” has been spent targetting her alone.

The constant criticism of conventional medicine is commonplace, as is quite evident in this “media release” . Setting out to send a message of defiance on name change, it again squeezes in the notion of being “under attack”.

Let me choose one example to drive home how antivaccine Ms. Dorey really is. Here’s an ABC article warning on the dangers of co-sleeping, including Baby Talk audio. On July 6th, the ABC also reported criticism from the Victorian coroner regarding inconsistent warnings. Almost half of all sudden infant deaths involve co-sleeping. The coroners criticism was welcomed by experts in the field.

Here is Meryl Dorey advising a member of her group in November last year:

Yesterday Meryl sought to encourage another member to contact the families of SIDS cases to “find out if the children were vaccinated before their death”.

Dr. Ken Harvey would appear to be completely correct in his observation that, “The deceptive name of the organisation has potentially deadly consequences”.

Quite so, and this is simply one example that carries a single insight into how far out of step Dorey is with safe advice. More so, the AVN is less and less representative of adherents to alternatives to medicine and even genuine vaccine opponents. As polarising as certain choices clearly are, few Aussies accept there is a war to be fought or that General Dorey is their leader. Added to this is the reality that many new parents are now well aware of the AVN’s lethal, conspiratorial approach.

I’m not sure what the AVN should be called. Something in ancient Sanskrit maybe? Just don’t dare suggest they’re antivaccine.

What would ever give you that idea?

Harm Reduction: How Australia Stopped HIV

In 1985 before the introduction of needle and syringe programmes (NSP) 90% of Australian injection drug users reported sharing injection equipment. By 1994 following introduction of NSPs this figure had fallen to 20%. In 2009 this figure was around 15% possibly reflecting the constant number of distributions from NSP programmes over the previous decade.

One of the most powerful modes of resistance to the spread of HIV/AIDS is Harm Reduction (HR) measures.

In Australia, HR exists as one of three pillars of Harm Minimisation (HM) – our official illicit drug control policy. The other two pillars are Supply Reduction and Demand Reduction. Reduction in supply receiving the lions share of funding directs energy at reducing international and domestic supply. Reduction in demand receiving less funding delivers programmes and initiatives designed to reduce the demand for drugs within communities.

Harm Reduction receiving the least funding from the HM pile targets the harm to individuals that eventuates from behaviour. HR has always drawn condemnation from conservative groups because of the association with drug use and sex. Initially men who have sex with men (MSM). Then later through maximal exploitation of drug using pop culture. Nonetheless, study after study comparing countries and districts within countries to have implemented HR or not done so, show a stunning success in favour of HR.

This post will look almost exclusively at IV drug use. HR for Injection Drug Users (IDU) includes provision of clean needles and sterile water, swabs, sharps containers for disposal and specialised filters capable of removing bacteria. Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST) including methadone and buprenorphine and safe injecting facilities are pivotal aspects of HR. Heroin on prescription is not available in Australia but has shown unprecedented success as a HR measure where it has been implemented.

Despite the evidence supporting HM as an effective policy and the reality that Supply Reduction [law enforcement] is the most highly funded pillar, Aussies are still subject to notions such as “Tough on drugs” and code words such as Drug Free Australia’s Harm Prevention. Intuitively it sounds fine. Why minimise harm if you can prevent it?

Yet on examination “harm prevention” is the abandonment of HM for the reintroduction of Just Say No approaches. Known to have had deleterious effects on self esteem, no effect on lowering drug use and providing the field upon which drug use flourished, Just Say No quite simply failed, and failed Epically. Today of course, skeptics are well aware of how beliefs and behaviours are reinforced through attacking them. Harm Prevention even more so is code for punitive, custodial and forced behaviour control.

It is at times perplexing as to why so much energy is spent on attacking HM entirely. Supply Reduction however is based in part upon the reality that people want, seek, use and enjoy illicit drugs. Education to accompany this is open and honest – not promotion of illicit drug use . Yet to the conservative mind the idea that their children, friends or the community at large is the demographic from which drug demand comes, is morally untenable.

With HR it is aspects of this pillar that equally cannot be accepted. To the conservative mind, just as condoms cause AIDS and promote sexual promiscuity so too do clean needles, safe injecting facilities and safe injecting education encourage drug use. Drug Free Australia write:

We need to re-focus our drug policy and practice on an approach that prioritises primary prevention, if we are to see any real change in the health and wellbeing of our current and future generations of young people. We need to acknowledge that Australia has one of the highest rates of drug use, because of a priority on Harm Minimisation rather than Harm Prevention, and we now need to take a leaf out of the books of the policy makers in the UK and United States. Both these countries have given greater emphasis to prevention initiatives, while still aiming to help people who are drug dependent, to recover.

The towering dishonesty inherent in this nonsense is typical of the tactics used by DFA in what has become over just a few years, one of the most immoral lobbying groups on the illicit drug landscape. Australia has high levels of cannabis use and abuse. This is handy in arguing that we have high drug use generally. A synopsis of the above is simply: Harm Minimisation has caused Australia to have one of the highest drug use levels in the world. We should be doing what America and the UK do.

The UK get a mention because they reclassified cannabis to a Class B (like speed/other amphetamines) from a Class C drug and punish users accordingly. Of 2.3 million USA prisoners in 2010, over 65% or 1.5 million meet DSM IV medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction. On top of this another 458,000 have a history that meets DSM IV criteria for addiction, were under the influence when they committed their crime, committed a crime to finance the purchase of drugs or were incarcerated for a drug law violation.

Between 1960 and 1990 official crime rates in Finland, the USA and Germany were similar. Incarceration in Finland dropped 60%, remained stable in Germany and quadrupled in the USA, driven primarily by drug convictions.

Today around around 80% of USA prisoners are incarcerated due to illicit drugs. 11% are receiving some type of “treatment”. The last thing Aussies need is a dose of the USA nightmare.

What of the impact of changing our strategy on HIV and consequently other types of blood borne virus transmission? The graph below is from a TED talk by Sereen El-Feki, vice-chair of the Global Commission on HIV and the law:

HIV infection in Injection Drug Users

Whilst Thailand and Russia have ignored Harm Reduction and Australia and Switzerland have embraced it the USA and Malaysia employed only some Harm Reduction techniques. Should Australia embrace USA tactics our prison population will explode, HIV infection in IV drug users will increase by about eight times the present rate and treatment – presently some of the best in the world with plunge to 11%. The cost to the public health purse would simply gut present programmes and destroy any hope of improvement for say, dental, mental health, public hospital care, nursing home care etc.

There is a 4 minute out-take from Sereen El-Feki’s TED talk in April this year below. Or download MP3 here.

The first case of AIDS was reported in Australia in 1983. At that time morbidity rates to rival World War II were expected. Following the innovative approach of HR, levels of infection in all demographics fell from 2,500 per year to 500 in the decade following inception of HR. This infection rate has remained stable.

At the time, initiation of clean needle supply contravened the states Drug Offensive which, already highly criticised, had regrettably escalated drug use and criminalisation via the failed “Just Say No” approach. The pilot programme ran from St. Vincents Drug and Alcohol Service on November 13 1986. It was run in the suburb of Darlinghurst. An evaluation recommended they should be adminstered by social workers, drug agencies, pharmacies, medical professionals and urged:

The urgent widespread introduction of needle exchange programmes in all states and territories

There needed to be an amendment to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act following which NSW pharmacies sold “anti-AIDS kits”. By mid 1989 there were 40 public outlets run across Sydney. By 1994 there were 250 outlets run by NGOs, government agencies and pharmacists distributing 3.5 million syringes annually. For the year 1993-1994 10.3 million syringes were distributed across Australia. The USA with 15 times the population of Australia distributed 8 million syringes in 1994-1995.

More comprehensive analyses refuted the concerns of increasing drug use. No increase in drug use was seen in any country that had instigated needle exchange and more so, attendance at rehabilitation and abstinence programmes had increased. Australia’s Commonwealth Department of Health (now Dept. of Health and Ageing) estimated that 25,000 cases of HIV were averted in the 12 years from 1988 – 2000 due to needle exchange alone.

The infection rate among Aussie IDU sat at around 3%. Users who were also MSM had an infection rate of 27%. In Russia where HR for drug users was denied, the figure for IDU was between 75 and 90%. One study in 1997 looked at 81 European cities with and without needle exchange programmes. Seroprevalence (measured from the presence of HIV within blood taken from used syringes) increased 5.9% annually in cities without clean needle distribution, and decreased 5.8% in cities with needle exchange.

In an astonishing comparison, Edinburgh with no NSP experienced a 65% HIV infection rate amongst IDU. Glasgow, less than an hours drive away and with NSP experienced a 4.5% increase in HIV infection amongst IDU. The one issue Australia faced was return of used syringes. Users were placing them in sharps bins. Yet to return any syringes to Exchanges meant risking being questioned by police. A used syringe is evidence of illicit drug use and this acted as a disincentive to return items for safe disposal.

Of note however is that fears and front page headlines of beach goers and joggers stepping on syringes and undergoing “agonising waits” for blood tests to be cleared of HIV infection are out of proportion. HIV dies very quickly once outside the body and syringes on beaches have been discarded into drains, washed out to sea and then beached. Nonetheless despite the absence of actual transmission it is an unpleasant experience which can be lessened by removing all offences for possession of a used syringe.

Clearly, Australia’s decision to take the necessary steps and bring together members of drug using demographics, gay rights advocates and prostitutes collectives and allow them to consult upon and shape this programme was one of it’s greatest public health initiatives ever.

Between 2000-2009 NSPs have averted 32,050 new cases of HIV and 96,666 Hepatitis C infections. Needles distributed increased from approximately 27 million to 31 million in that decade. For every one dollar invested, four dollars have been saved. 140,000 Disability Adjusted Life Years were gained over the same decade.

Still, conservative biblical fundamentalist group Drug Free Australia boldly inform us that Return On Investment is quite wrong and should show an expense. In earlier posts you can access from the tag on the right, I highlight how they cherry pick phrases and select data out of context. At other times they simply dismiss WHO findings based solely on the reviews of just one Swedish researcher, Dr Kerstin Käll.

So to be very clear, Dr Kerstin Käll, working for the Swedish government who are dodging UN demands to establish more Needle Exchanges and accelerate HR or remain in breach of the international right to health, conducted no research but criticised methodology that was favourable of NSP success. Her own research argues regular testing for HIV is more of a prevention – yes prevention – than clean needle supply.

It’s easy to get confused because whilst Käll supports NSP programmes as reducing hepatitis C in prisons DFA refute any change in HCV attributable to NSP programmes… anywhere. They also lobby stridently against the establishment of needle exchange in Australian prisons. Of course, despite the evidence above they insist the impact of NSP on HIV is “inconclusive”.

Ultimately it’s irrefutable how successful Harm Reduction has been in controlling the spread of blood borne viruses. Paramount amongst these is HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B. The most significant and visionary measure to now apply would include steps to decriminalisation and regulation.

Today however, this is where Australia is falling behind.