06/22/2012 07:53 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Needle exchange use doubles on P.E.I.

The number of needles being exchanged at provincially-run centres on P.E.I. has doubled in the last two years.

The government took over the program from AIDS PEI in spring of 2009. The needles are provided to prevent the transmission of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

Since 2010, the number of needles exchanged has doubled from about 40,000 a year to 80,000. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said that doesn't necessarily mean there are more IV drug users in the province.

"We said right from the beginning when we started running this program, it takes time for clients to feel comfortable coming to needle exchange programs," said Morrison.

"So it may not be that there's been such an increase, but that they are actually knowing that these sites exist, they're comfortable coming and they're wanting to make sure that they look after themselves and protect other people."

The province has also opened more needle exchange sites outside of Charlottetown.

Some Charlottetown businesses had recently had to install sharps disposal boxes in their washrooms because more needles are being found there.

Morrison said the businesses are taking the right steps to ensure the safety of workers and public.