What is the opinion context of peer distribution in NSW? Findings from the evaluation of NUAA’s peer distribution pilot project

Stream: Advances in Harm Reduction
Date: Friday, 1 April 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.45 pm


The authorisation of peer distribution of sterile needles and syringes holds great potential to reinvigorate harm reduction in NSW. Yet, the current legislative framework makes it unlawful for people apart from authorised NSP workers to distribute, meaning that people who inject drugs are exposed to criminal penalties if they distribute to peers. To date there is no published research exploring the opinions of those with the most investment in peer distribution: people who inject, staff of NSP, and police.

This paper hopes to continue the discussion about peer distribution by exploring perceptions about the possible benefits and risks attached to the authorisation of peer distribution. The paper uses data from the recent evaluation of a trial of authorised peer distribution run by the NSW Users and AIDS Association, in partnership with the NSW Ministry of Health.

Participants believed that the benefits of authorising peer distribution were enormous and the risks few, but not non-existent. They believed that authorizing peer distribution would improve opportunities to reduce the spread of BBV. But they also believed that it would represent an important symbolic shift towards acknowledging the humanity of drug users and their desire to help each other.

Some negligible risks were identified, including the potential that peer distributors might attract police attention by carrying large volumes of equipment, and that peer distribution may lead to a higher number of improperly disposed syringes in the community highlighting the need to pay attention to how the return and disposal of syringes might be managed.


Joanne Bryant (Presenter), Centre for Social Research in Health
Joanne Bryant is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health. Her main areas of research include illicit and injecting drug use among vulnerable youth populations including homeless and disenfranchised young people, and Indigenous youth. She has published widely about issues relating to risk reduction, including about needle sharing between heterosexual couples, population level syringe coverage, and novel methods of harm reduction such as peer distribution.

Loren Brener, Centre for Social Research in Health
Dr Loren Brener is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health.