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Marc Koska at TEDGlobal 2009: Running notes from Session 7

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Marc Koska – MiniSlot at TEDGlobal 2009, Session 8: July 23, 2009, in Oxford, UK. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson

Twenty-five years ago, Marc Koska read a newspaper article that said one day syringes would be the main vehicle for spreading the AIDS virus and the thought of this preventable tragedy never left him. Today, he tells us, syringes kill 1.3 million people a year.

He begins his talk with pictures of a young girl and boy in India who got AIDS from syringes, and where then thrown out of their home by their parents because of the stigma attached to it. Koska describes skilled and unskilled practitioners blindly giving injections around the world. People trust the doctor to do the right thing, and they’re not. To prove his point, he shows a video, shot undercover, of nurses in India giving a series of injections over a 30 minute period, using only two syringes.

The problem is certainly not isolated. Koska goes on to go show photos of children in in Pakistan picking up syringes behind hospitals to re-sell them. Of course, during the collection process they get injured, so that infection becomes very possible. Koska explains that at one point their father pricked his finger and then burnt the cut with match saying that that would stop HIV infection. Next are photos from China of syringe recycling on massive scale. And, in Indonesian schools there are toy vendors on playground that sell syringes with still visible traces of blood in them, which the children use to squirt water, sometimes into their mouths.

Koska presents his solution — a very normal looking syringe, but after the plunger has been pushed all the way down once, if someone tries to reuse it, it locks and breaks. It even costs the same as regular syringe. It’s a simple but brilliant idea and the audience applauds loudly. Additionally, he’s begun an information charity in India called Safepoint that educates people on the dangers of reusing syringes.