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7 years of the Syringe-Exchange Programme at the Pamplona Prison (Spain)

Quality level: 2


Implementation of a pilot programme in a penitentiary to reduce risks through the personalized exchange of syringes, similar to the scheme in place for the population at large. In the 7 years it has been operational, it has proven that such measures are suitable, valid and effective in prison environments.

Type of intervention:
harm reduction
reduction of overdoses,prevention of infectious diseases (e.g needle syringe programmes)
needle/syringe provision
Type of approach:
Target group:
Age group:
Annual coverage:
Substances addressed:
opiates, ecstasy, cocaine and derivatives, amphetamines, methamphetamines
Evaluation type:
evaluation of intervention planning, outcome evaluation, impact evaluation, process evaluation
Start date:
End date:

Overall objective

To verify whether the harm reduction programmes, and more specifically the syringe exchange schemes (Spanish initials, PIJ), in place for the population at large could be implemented in prison. PIJ was started in 1998 as a pilot programme at the penitentiary and evaluated one year later by an independent commission. In light of the excellent results, it has been continued to date. The expectations were that injected drug use would not increase, the habit of sharing injection material would become less common, the re-use of syringes would decline or disappear and healthier usage would be furthered. The impact on other efforts such as PMM or drug-free programmes (PLD) was also to be evaluated, along with the impact of PIJ on the occupational health of the facility’s surveillance and other employees.


In the Pamplona facility, around 35 % of inmates have or have had intravenous drug use problems. Penitentiary authorities must guarantee inmates’ right to health under conditions comparable to those in place for the population at large, and this includes the implementation of prevention programmes such as syringe exchange schemes (PIJ). A pilot programme for syringe exchange was initiated in the facility in November 1998, and continues to date. A number of institutions participated in programme formulation, implementation, coordination and evaluation. The PIJ consists in personalized exchange and includes the possibility of medical action. No incidents of any importance have been forthcoming in the 7 years that the PIJ has been operational, with respect either to users or prison surveillance staff. No increase in injected drug use has been detected, the use of illegal syringes has disappeared and not a single case of HIV or HVC serconversion has been documented. Ongoing programme monitoring and follow-up surveys of user and penitentiary surveillance staff opinions are regarded to be key factors in programme success.

The PDF contains the full intervention description including additional contact information.


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Page last updated: Friday, 20 January 2012