Needle van in the spotlight again

Needle van in the spotlight again

Gosnells District Progress Ratepayers Association president Sandy Bariolo and ratepayer treasurer Kelly Partington with the van in the background, parked on Lissiman Street. Photograph – Aaron Van Rongen.

The Gosnells District Progress Ratepayers Association has clashed with the WA Aids Council over its placement of a controversial syringe swap van.

The Needle Exchange Program has operated from Lissiman Street in Gosnells for more than 14 years but GDPRA president Sandy Bariolo said she wanted the van moved.

Since the early 2000s the van has parked across from the Gosnells Market but Ms Bariolo said she was concerned by allegations of inappropriately discarded needles and the van’s proximity to families with children.

“We have nothing against the program,” she said.

“We just want the van moved.”

Run by the WA AIDS Council, the Needle Exchange Program aims to minimise the impact and further transmission of HIV and other blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections.

Last month the van moved to Canning Avenue in Maddington but has since returned to the original Lissiman Street site.

WA AIDS Council chief executive Willie Rowe said the van returned because of insufficient lighting, inadequate amenities and isolation from the community.

“For the safety of the staff, volunteers and clients it was decided that the needle exchange service would return to the Gosnells markets where it has operated without significant incident for 15 years,” he said.

Mr Rowe said the WA AIDS Council would not compromise the safety of its staff or members of the community who use the service.

Ms Bariolo alleged a client’s car had blocked Lissiman Street earlier in July because the driver stopped in the road instead of parking in a market-parking bay.

Mr Rowe said such behaviour was not the norm.

He said the van was a no-shame environment and people were not interrogated about why they were there.

“There are no concerns from any other sites that we operate,” he said.

“We have taken seriously the concerns raised and allegations made and addressed any issues and we will continue to do so.”

The WA Aids Council has also worked to reduce social, legal and policy barriers, which prevented access to health information and effective support and prevention services.

Ms Baraiolo first contacted The Examiner in February saying Gosnells residents had complained to her that the van is not discreet and should not be in an area frequented by families who go to the Gosnells Markets.

She also alleged the amount of needles taken from the van did not match the amount returned.