In 1989, not long after HIV/AIDS had been identified as a major epidemic in
Australia, a group of injecting drug users and their supporters established the NSW Users & AIDS Association (NUAA). NUAA was set up to increase the wellbeing of injecting drug users, advocating for resources, equipment and information, based on a peer model similar to that which had been successful at delivering HIV/AIDS-related safe sex messages to the gay community. By involving drug users in all stages of developing and spreading messages about safer injecting, the information was both more credible and presented in a language that was guaranteed to be understood by the people it was designed for.
It would be hard to find a user these days who doesn’t have or know someone who has hepatitis C. Eighty three per cent of all hep C infections in
Australia are a result of sharing contaminated fits and other equipment. Hep C can take years to rear its ugly head so many users have no idea they have the virus and might be passing it on.
I first used heroin in 1992 in inner city
Sydney, at a time when heroin was fairly easy to come by and almost fashionable in the share houses where I was living. I’d been a weekend binge drinker for several years and loved the intoxication and euphoria of heroin. I also liked the self-control that comes with heroin compared to black-out drunkenness — I was able to wake up in my own bed after a night out on heroin and could even remember what I had done and said! For some years I only used heroin on weekends in line with my old drinking pattern. It was the sudden death of a much loved boyfriend that tipped me into daily usage.