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This Letter to the Editor was sent in response to an article published in the Herald Sun on 13 February 2011.
Peter Rolfe’s article “Taxpayers are paying more than $500,000 to give condoms to Victorian drug addicts” (Sunday Herald Sun, February 13) described the provision of free condoms through needle and syringe programs, community centres, hospitals and other health care facilities.
Condoms are a proven method of preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Hepatitis B and HIV are potentially fatal viral STIs, and people who inject illicit drugs (and hence use needle and syringe programs) are at much higher risk of these diseases than the general population.
Simple protective measures such as condoms help prevent drug users from transmitting infections to their sexual partners and families, and ultimately reduce their spread into the wider community.
Family Council Victoria secretary Bill Muehlenberg was reported as saying that taxpayers would be stunned to know they were paying to give addicts free condoms.
Mr Muehlenberg must be unaware that treating a single HIV infection can cost the Australian community $28,000 per year or over a million dollars per lifetime, and that every dollar invested in needle and syringe programs returns at least five dollars in avoided health care costs. Measures like condom distribution represent outstanding value for taxpayers.
Dr Campbell Aitken Senior Research Fellow Burnet Institute