Injection drug use is associated with a high risk of infection by blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, but sterile syringe access programs help lower these risks by limiting syringe sharing and providing safe disposal options.
These programs also provide people who inject drugs with referrals to drug treatment, detoxification, social services, and primary health care.
Syringe exchange programs have also been shown to increase the safe disposal of used syringes, protecting police officers and the public from accidental exposure to blood-borne diseases.
Increasing sterile syringe access through syringe exchange programs and non-prescription pharmacy sales is essential to reducing syringe sharing among injection drug users and decreasing rates of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C transmission.
Despite the benefits of these life-saving programs, legal and bureaucratic barriers still prevent injection drug users from accessing clean syringes.
Voices From the Front Lines
The Drug Policy Alliance works to end the drug war by partnering with organizations like the St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction (SACHR). Joyce Rivera founded SACHR in 1990 to provide support and resources for people who inject drugs and to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the South Bronx.
Today, they are a multi-service agency that serves thousands of people throughout New York City and provides a continuum of interventions that treats the whole person in a manner that is nonjudgmental and culturally capable.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is working to ensure wider access to sterile syringes throughout the country. We support removing syringes from the criminal code by ending policies that criminalize syringe possession and limit sterile syringe distribution.
DPA has played an instrumental role in the struggle to eliminate the federal ban on syringe access funding. We have led successful efforts to launch syringe exchange programs and facilities in several states, most recently in New Jersey.
DPA backs the non-prescription, over-the-counter sale of syringes, which is now permitted in all but two U.S. states. We support state efforts to exempt syringes from paraphernalia laws and broaden the legal definition of medical necessity as it relates to syringe access.
We also favor allowing doctors to prescribe syringes to their patients, a practice few states currently permit.