Out of 1.8m injecting drug users, 70% have HIV or Aids, but the Government does not believe a methadone programme would reduce these numbers.
John Ashton was a senior lecturer at Liverpool’s medical school in the 1980s, and played a pivotal role in establishing the first needle exchange and other programmes.
He says advice from an American called Glen Margo was central, after he visited the city and gave talks about the US Aids epidemic.
Dr Ashton said: “Nationally, we were under a prudish influence.
“Anything to do with sex was swept under carpet.
“But there were figures trying to change this.
“We got permission from the chair of the Mersey Regional Health Authority to set up the first needle exchange on Maryland Street, by the Phil.
“Drug users found out by word of mouth about the exchange and we set the agenda.
“We were not judgmental and left it up to the individual as to when they were ready to come off drugs.
“We prescribed methadone and gave clean syringes.
“It was decided nationally that needle exchange pilots should be set up after several babies were born with HIV in Edinburgh.
It emerged police were arresting drug users who carried needles in the city – encouraging them to share in “shooting galleries”.
Dr Ashton added: “The steps kept HIV out of the injecting population in Merseyside, unlike in other northern cities.”