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Retractable Syringes in a Swiss Prison Needle and Syringe Exchange Program: Experiences of Drug-using Inmates and Prison Staff Perceptions


Needle and Syringe Exchange Programs (NSP) prevent infectious diseases in community and prisons. Less than 1 % of prisons worldwide have NSP. One barrier is organizational concern for needle stick injuries from used syringes. Given these concerns, we introduced retractable syringes into our prison NSP and evaluated 1) injection drug users’ experiences with retractable syringes and 2) beliefs and knowledge about NSP among prison officers (PO) and healthcare staff (HS). In 2010, we replaced usual syringes with retractable needle devices in the prison of Champ-Dollon, Geneva, Switzerland. We examined demographics, clinical profiles and NSP use among NSP participants, and asked about ease and safety of retractable syringes use in interviews. We distributed questionnaires to PO and HS, to assess knowledge and general opinions on NSP. The majority of participants expressed that retractable syringes were acceptable alternatives, but needed improvements. Of the questionnaires, 90.3 % of PO and 9.6 % of HS were still concerned about misuse of soiled syringes as weapons. Improving the quality and ease of use of use may increase the acceptance of retractable syringes. Continuing to address PO and HS safety concerns is an important step towards more disseminated NSP implementation and useful innovation.

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Needle and syringe exchange program(s)


Blood borne virus


Human immunodeficiency virus


Hepatitis B virus


Hepatitis C virus


Injection Drug User(s)




Healthcare staff


Prison officer(s)


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This study received financial support from Unitract and the University Hospitals of Geneva

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Correspondence to Javier Barro.

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Barro, J., Casillas, A., Gétaz, L. et al. Retractable Syringes in a Swiss Prison Needle and Syringe Exchange Program: Experiences of Drug-using Inmates and Prison Staff Perceptions. Int J Ment Health Addiction 12, 648–659 (2014).

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  • Needle and syringe exchange program
  • Retractable syringe
  • Harm reduction
  • Prison