In Amsterdam, I had the chance to visit a “consumption room” – a place where homeless injection drug users can come not only to obtain clean needles, but also to use them. There are only a handful of such places all over Europe, but they are becoming more common as the evidence that they reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis becomes increasingly clear.
Amazing that the term “harm reduction” was only used in official EU documents for the very first time in 2004, considering how obvious it is that rooms like this save lives. As the directors of Correlation, the charity housed in the same building as the room, told me: “Hepatitis C is a cruel disease.” And it is one which almost solely affects drug users (read: homeless people and prisoners), because it is passed via blood.
The experience here was an interesting one: I did not know beforehand that there would be such a room in the building. There is no mention on the website. But when I entered the door downstairs, I clocked it: that smell of burnt rubber oatmeal. Unmistakable.