media release

Advisory: Injection drug use and the interacting epidemics of substance use and HIV

March 26, 2019

Ian Bryce, University Communications and Marketing, 604-773-8134,

On Wednesday, March 27, Simon Fraser University’s President’s Dream Colloquium on HIV/AIDS will host a lecture on how the current opioid crisis and substance use intersects with HIV infection rates in North America. Hansel Tookes, an assistant professor at the University of Miami will speak on the opioid epidemic in Florida, harm reduction, needle exchange programs and next steps, as the final lecture in the series, to be held at SFU’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

This event is free and open to the public. A reception with food and an arts exhibit featuring works from the community will follow the lecture.



Hansel Tookes, M.D., M.P.H., is assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He is the principal investigator of the UM Harm Reduction Research Group, housing Miami’s pilot syringe access program called the IDEA Exchange,.

Tookes’ research interests include behavioral interventions and innovative approaches to HIV prevention. He has received numerous honours including Starbucks Upstander, Miami Chamber of Commerce Healthcare Hero, and SAVE Champion of Equality. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Florida Medical Association and is a delegate to the American Medical Association.

Prior to medical school, Dr. Tookes worked in public health. He graduated from Yale University with a B.S. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.



  • Wednesday, March 27
  • 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.



  • Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema, SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
  • 149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver



  • Recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found record numbers of drug overdose deaths: 70,237 Americans died from overdose in 2017—more than those who died because of gun violence or motor-vehicle collisions.
  • These statistics highlight the importance of providing an environment for safer injection practices, through needle exchange services to curb the transmission of infectious diseases, or supervised injection facilities.
  • Vancouver is a leader in the harm reduction field, having established many programs including the Best-Practices in Oral Opioid agonist Therapy (BOOST) provincial collaborative. Oral opioid agonist therapy (OAT) involves prescribing methadone or buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder.
  • The provincial collaborative follows the Vancouver-based collaborative, a partnership between Vancouver Coastal Health and B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) that helped to double retention rates in opioid agonist treatment.
  • During the Vancouver BOOST Collaborative pilot project, OAT retention rates made a significant jump—from three out of 10 to seven out of 10—among participating clinics.
  • The BC-CfE-led BOOST Collaborative is inspired by the made-in-BC Treatment as Prevention® strategy and supports a Targeted Disease Elimination® (TDE®) approach. This uses tools and strategies that have been proven through the work of the BC-CfE in curbing HIV transmissions. The TDE® strategy addresses contagious diseases and diseases with a social contagion factor, such as substance use disorders.



Hansel Tookes is available for interviews on Wednesday, March 27, and Thursday, March 28. For interview requests and media passes for the lecture, please contact Ian Bryce.



As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement. SFU was founded more than 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university and is ranked one of the top universities in the world. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 150,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.

Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.


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