Needle Exchange/Syringe Availability
Increasing the availability of sterile syringes through syringe exchange programs (SEPs), pharmacies, and other outlets reduces unsafe injection practices such as needle sharing, curtails transmission of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, increases safe disposal of used syringes, and helps injecting drug users (IDUs) obtain drug information, treatment, detoxification, social services, and primary health care.
SEPs and other methods to increase the availability of sterile syringes are widespread throughout most developed and many developing countries. Using a wide variety of methodologies to measure the effect of SEPs, researchers have consistently found that SEPs reduce HIV transmission among IDUs, their sexual partners and their children, and do not increase drug use.
International organizations including the World Health Organization, the World Bank and the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS have strongly supported the development of SEPs in developed and developing countries. In the United States, organizations including the National Academy of Sciences, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, National Institutes of Health Consensus Panel, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, American Bar Association, President Bush’s and President Clinton’s AIDS Advisory Commissions, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors support efforts to improve access to sterile syringes to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
Many states and municipalities in the United States have acted to improve access to sterile syringes. However, the possession, distribution, and sale of syringes remains a criminal offense in much of the country, and the federal government prohibits the use of its funds for SEPs.