Students at Mohawk College are campaigning for the school to introduce sharps disposal containers in washrooms.
The Change.org petition campaign, being led by a group of six Mohawk students in their final year of the social service workers program, currently has over 100 signatures.
Vince Soliveri, a campaign organizer, said the petition is driven by safety concerns and a desire to de-stigmatize the use of needles.
Currently, Mohawk College does not have sharps disposals in washrooms.
Instead, there are signs asking students not to flush needles down the toilet or put them in the garbage.
“Because it is so stigmatized, people do not want to have that conversation,” Soliveri said. “Telling people to cap needles and take them home is a pretty harmful way to go about the situation.”
Soliveri first started thinking about the subject when a harm reduction worker from the AIDS Network came in to speak to the crisis intervention class in November.
“[The harm reduction worker] brought up that Mohawk College is branding itself as a safe and inclusive space for anybody and having a sticker like that on the wall is stigmatizing for those that use needles and do not really to create a safe and inclusive environment for people who do use needles for any reason,” Soliveri said.
The project team members began serious work on the project in January.
Soliveri has a particular connection to the issue as well, being a placement student with the AIDS Network in downtown Hamilton.
These experiences make him confident about the feasibility of installing sharps disposals.
“It does not really come at an expense other than a little bit of labor screwing the sharps container and mounting it on the wall. That is really the hardest part of it because everything else is provided by other agencies in the city,” Soliveri said.
The AIDS Network currently runs a “Community Points” program in collaboration with Hamilton Public Health Services, where the organization picks up needles and drops off sharps disposal containers around the city by request.
For the rest of the semester, the team will be working out the exact details of a potential sharps disposal program. They are also planning a public outreach phase.
After that, they will bring their plans to the college administration.
“This is probably a project that will go beyond our time as students,” Soliveri said. “We finish school in April, and we are hoping by then, we can at least have a pretty good set of signatures in our petition that we are circulating around members of the Mohawk community.”
Soliveri is hopeful that the petition could have lasting effects beyond Mohawk.
“We are hoping if this project is successful and people are into it and understand the value, that it can be used as a framework for other places in the city,” Soliveri said. “And that could be as big as a university or that could be as small as your local café, just letting people understand that the process is not as daunting as people think it is.”
A sharps disposal system at Mohawk would not be the first of its kind.
Ryerson University is planning to install sharps containers in over 500 washrooms in university-owned buildings following a successful pilot project last January.
McMaster lacks sharps disposal containers in its washrooms. McMaster Associate Director Health Safety and Risk Management Lisa Morine said the university regularly inspects the campus and sees no present need to implement sharps disposals in washrooms.
The Mohawk College online petition can be found at https://www.change.org/p/get-sharps-containers-at-mohawk-college. To contact the Community Points program for disposal of sharps or for harm reduction supplies, call 905-546-2489.
Aisha Malik / The Silhouette
Young adults love to explore and find their true identity. There are many ways people define themselves as unique individuals. Some people use body piercings, dresses, hairstyles and body art.
Tattoos became a part of popular culture in the early 2000s for many young adults. This was a new era for people to share their life stories behind images they wanted to display on their bodies. However, on March 20, Hamilton Public Health Services issued a tattoo infection warning for people who got an unlicensed tattoo artist to perform on their body. This unnamed tattoo artist works from various private homes in Hamilton downtown. The artist was reusing needles and unhygienic tattoo art equipment.
These types of unsafe tattoo practices can put customers on high risk of blood infections such as Hepatitis B or C and HIV.
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). The virus is in the blood or any body fluids containing blood. Hepatitis is contagious and the virus spreads through blood-to-blood contact by sharing needles and using the same utensils (straws, spoons, etc.). Many students focus heavily on their education to graduate on time, but in the process are not able to earn much income. Therefore, students seize on any opportunity to save money, buy discounted materials and goods or use discounted services. Most of the times students share foods and drinks among their friends because they trust them and to save money. However, many students do not realize how easily Hepatitis C could spread among people. Students trust their friends or tattoo artists who will give them discounts to perform tattoo designs without informing customers about their unhygienic equipment.
The tattoo artists who are reusing needles on clients has been a massive issue throughout the years. There was another incident on July 26, 2010 when City of Hamilton Public Health Services advised people about a tattoo artist who was practicing unsafe tattooing in downtown Hamilton.
These types of incidents can cause great risks to people’s health. Therefore, students who want to budget their money should always use precaution and find enough information before receiving a tattoo from a tattoo artist. Students should not feel hesitant to ask how long the tattoo artists have been doing body art work, the last time the tattoo equipment was being used, or how often they sanitize the seating area for the customer. These questions can help protect a person’s life and keep tattoo artists on their toes in order to make sure they follow all the safety requirements and regulations.
There are a few ways for students to reduce the spread of Hepatitis C. The most important thing is to never share needles, straws, spoons, water or any equipment. The one time-sharing with an individual can change your life forever. Hepatitis C can live on surfaces for up to four days; therefore, avoid sharing toothbrushes, razors and manicure equipment. No matter how close of a relationship you have with your friends or roommates, be courteous and have the will to refuse sharing anything. Succumbing to peer pressure is what causes the downfall for most college students to begin with. Some of the signs and symptoms to remember are nausea, stomach upset, itchy skin, jaundice and the yellowing of eyes and skin. Hamilton Public Health Services and your health care provider’s provide testing with Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines at no cost. This will help people protect their body from other Hepatitis viruses. However, there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, so always remember that sharing is not the only way of caring.
Unsterilized needles have caused several deaths in Hamilton and continue to do so around the world. All it takes is a little bit of knowledge and correct decision making skills as this is the thin line between life and death. Finding tattoo artists that practice such unhygienic work not only has the potential to ruin what they make on your body being unlicensed, but can also give you a fatal disease. Prevention is better than a cure. However, if body art is a must for someone to showcase who they are, then it must be done under the supervision of a licensed expert.