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WHO Launches New Global Initiative For Needle Safety

September 29, 2014

The assistant director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that the body's next global health initiative will concern needle safety.

Speaking at the TedMed conference in Washington, DC, Dr Marie-Paule Kieny revealed that the organisation will officially announce its third global health initiative and policy during October, with the focus this time concerning needle safety.

Time Magazine reports that the announcement came during a presentation about safety devices, which aims to reduce the number of percutaneous injuries by automatically disabling the needle. It is hoped that the WHO mandate - which will encourage the use of non-reusable syringes and other safer instruments - will become a worldwide standard for health and safety.

During the presentation, viewers saw a hidden camera video of a nurse giving a child an injection using the same needle that had been used on a man with the HIV virus. The same needle was then used on a baby. Every year 1.3 million people die because of dirty needles, while millions of dollars are spent on trying to treat illnesses and diseases caused by bloodborne infections. This burden on healthcare could be ultimately removed if these conditions were eradicated from the removal of needlestick injuries.

It is estimated that unsafe injections cause 23 million cases of hepatitis across the world, while in Africa it is estimated that 20 million medical injections use needles previously used on an HIV-positive patients every year.

Speaking at the presentation, Dr Marc Koska said that once WHO officially launches its initiative, the next step will be to encourage manufacturers to convert to safety devices. He said the cost is no higher than standard needle production, but “the policy is a monumental step”.

It is expected that the WHO's official launch will come at the end of October and be made by the organisation's director-general Dr Margaret Chan. The main topic of the meeting will be the new injection safety policy, as well as recommending and developing appropriate strategies for implementation in countries worldwide.

The new policy will recommend the use of safety-engineered devices to prevent the reuse of instruments and reduce sharps injuries.

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