A 12-year-old boy is being tested for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and HIV after a frightening encounter with a used needle on his walk home from school.

Julio and Amie Ceron say their son was returning home Wednesday afternoon when he decided to play with some rocks in the parking lot of a church near the intersection of 15 Avenue and 20 Street North.

“As he reached down here to pick up one of those rocks, he didn’t see that there was a syringe there on the ground,” said Julio. “The syringe needle had actually punctured through the little plastic cap and that is what ended up pricking his finger.”

The Cerons contacted Alberta Health Services and took their son to hospital to have a blood sample drawn and sent to Calgary for testing. His bloodwork will be immediately tested for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and then retested in seven weeks’ time.

“With HIV, they actually said he has to come back in six weeks, and then again at 12 weeks, and then maybe even after that because it can actually take months to show up in your blood,” said Amie.

“So now this happens to be his life for the next year or so,” added Julio. He’s going to get tested to make sure that there’s no trace of it.”

“We’re praying that the results are going to be good and nothing’s coming from it.”

The needle was taken to the Norbridge Pharmacy to be properly discarded.

Last week, a mother created a petition calling for improvements to the needle exchange policy in Lethbridge after she found dozens of discarded needles and drug paraphernalia in Klein Park. As of Thursday evening, the petition had been signed nearly 1,500 times and includes the signatures of Julio and Amie Ceron.

The executive director of ARCHES (AIDS Outreach Community Harm Reduction Education & Support Society) Lethbridge, a community outreach centre that offers clean needles at its medically supervised consumption sites, says her staff does their best to address the needle issue in the community.

“Our staff volunteer their time frequently,” said Stacey Bourque. “If they come across syringes, if they’re out in the community and they see something, they’re always responding. If they get calls or Facebook message off hours, they still respond.”

“We care very much about addressing the needs and the concerns of the community.”

Bourque says there has been a noticeable reduction in the amount of drug-related debris spotted in the community following the opening of the safe consumption site but there is no easy solution to the problem.

The Cerons say they have received an outpouring of support from the community and hope their experience proves a cautionary tale for all residents of Lethbridge.

“We assume it’s happening downtown and in bad neighbourhoods, but it’s happening everywhere,” said Amie. “Everybody needs to be concerned.”

Anyone who finds a needle or drug paraphernalia in Lethbridge is asked to call the Debris Hotline at 403-332-0722. The City of Lethbridge has recently approved $150,000 in funding for the program.

With files from CTV’s Zayn Jinah