Risk Reduction

Is there a place in Texas for drug needle exchange programs?

It has been more then twenty-five years since the discovery of AIDS among intravenous drug users, or IVDU’s. The first needle exchange program was funded in the late 80’s, and by 2002 there were one hundred and eighty four needle exchange programs in more than thirty-six states, exchanging over twenty-four million syringes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But does the act of handing in a dirty needle for a clean one prevent the spread of HIV and other deadly diseases? Drug users are still in possession of needles—a means to continue their addicting habits. Those at the Office of National Drug Control Policy believe that the needle exchange doesn’t address the problem of addiction itself.

This session, lawmakers in Texas may authorize a needle exchange program. Legislation sponsored by Sen. Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) would allow local health organizations to authorize one-for-one needle and syringe exchanges.

Under current Texas law, anyone caught with drug paraphernalia can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. But Senate Bill 188 may authorize these operations. If drug laws remain so severe, it’s likely that the addicts won’t surface.

Many doctors and medical researchers are stunned at the lack of support for needle exchange programs in light of the evidence that they are not only cost effective, but can also reduce the spread of disease among drug users and those they come in contact with. According to the National Institutes of Health Panel on HIV Prevention, studies show that such programs reduce risk behavior as much as eighty percent, and an estimated thirty percent

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