Innovation That Matters

25¢ crack pipe vending machines aim to lower HIV rates in Canada

Sport & Fitness

Portland Hotel Society has installed crack pipe vending machines in Vancouver, in order to curb the spread of HIV and AIDS among the city's addicts.

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The creativity of businesses using vending machines to sell their products seems to know no bounds, and in the past we’ve seen even prescription drugs delivered through InstyMeds‘ 24/7 hospital kiosks. Going somewhat further, a nonprofit has now installed crack pipe vending machines in Vancouver, in order to curb the spread of HIV and AIDS among the city’s addicts.

Developed by the Portland Hotel Society’s Drug Users Resource Center, the machines have been installed in various locations in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, a part of the city with the worst rates of drug abuse. The machines are stocked with 200 safe and clean pipes and refilled every 5 days, with the pipes selling for just CAD 0.25. While the project could be seen as enabling drug users, the poorest members of the community often rely on unsuitable homemade devices that can have splintered glass, raising the risk of infections such as HIV. At the same time, the scarcity of useable pipes creates a often violent market for them.

The initiative is evidently a daring option for governments to adopt, but — as with needle exchanges for heroin users — could prove to help keep addicts safer. The profits could even be driven towards anti-drug marketing or education schemes to help avoid drug abuse in the first place. Are there other ways vending machines could provide useful tools for needy citizens living in poverty or on the streets?



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