A Safe Haven for Drug Users, Run by Nurses
Needle-exchange programs, sometimes called syringe-exchange programs, were first established in the late 1980s in the western U.S. and New York City. Since, nearly 200 programs have cropped up nationwide, exchanging millions of new syringes to IV drug users in an effort to stop the spread of diseases like HIV, hepatitis and other blood borne diseases.
In addition to exchanging syringes, many programs provide general medical services, condom distribution, referrals to drug treatment centers and social services, as well as offer on-site disease screening and treatment.
The National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel on HIV Prevention has found needle-exchange programs stave off high-risk drug use, reducing the spread of infectious diseases and ultimately saving money due to HIV prevention. However, the federal government doesn't fund these programs, and many states have restricted or stopped support.
North of the border in Vancouver, British Columbia, Insite, a program at St. Paul's Hospital, allows IV drug users to shoot up at a site supervised by nurses. An article in The New York Times states the government-funded program has multiple benefits. HIV infection in the city is down. Crime has been reduced in the area. Deaths caused by overdoses have been averted.
Would a similar program be welcome in the United States? Do you think this would be an effective way to reduce HIV rates in U.S. cities?