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.
SB 13-208 Ensures Participants of Syringe Access Programs are not Criminalized for Possessing Syringes; SB 13-14 Expands Access to Life Saving Drug Naloxone
Treatment Providers, Public Health Advocates and Families Who Have Lost Loved Ones to Overdose Voice Support
DENVER — This week, the Colorado House followed the Senate’s lead and approved SB-208, which allows participants in syringe access programs in Colorado to possess needles, as long as they are not pre-loaded.
In 2009, Congress passed legislation reversing the decades-old ban on the use of federal funding for syringe exchange but, for unclear reasons, in late 2011, it reversed this decision, again withholding federal funding from programs that provide drug users with sterile needles and syringes. This month, Congress approved the health spending budget for the rest of this fiscal year without lifting the ban. This lack of action worsens public health problems, makes our communities less safe, and increases future financial burdens on taxpayers.
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 people who inject drugs from accessing clean syringes.
The U.S. refuses to adopt an evidence-based HIV/AIDS prevention strategy, costing us hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars. However, in countries where addiction is treated as a health issue, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being won. Newly diagnosed HIV infections in many countries have been nearly eliminated among people who use drugs, just as mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been eliminated in countries that make medicines for pregnant women accessible.
The global war on drugs is severely jeopardizing the fight against AIDS. Criminalizing drug use drives the HIV pandemic not just among people who use drugs – but also among their families and communities.
Landmark Report Released in Advance of 2012 World AIDS Conference in Washington, DC
Global Commission Calls for Drug Decriminalization and Expansion of Proven, Cost-Effective Solutions to Reduce HIV/AIDS – Including Sterile Syringe Access, Safer Injection Facilities, and Prescription Heroin Programs
While Some Countries Have Virtually Eliminated Drug-Related HIV Transmissions, Drug War Policies in U.S., Russia, Thailand and China Cause Millions of Needless Infections and AIDS Deaths
Today, the Global Commission on Drug Policy will release a groundbreaking report at a press conference in London followed by a worldwide teleconference. The report condemns the drug war as a failure and recommends immediate, major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime to halt the spread of HIV infection and other drug war harms.
The report is being released in advance of the International AIDS Conference, the world’s largest gathering of HIV/AIDS experts. It will be held in the U. S. for the first time in 22 years this July 22-27, in Washington DC.
Senate Session This Thursday, June 21st at 2PM
Public Health Advocates Tout Success of Programs and Urge Passage of Life-Saving Legislation
Trenton—This Thursday, June 21st, the Senate will vote on Senate Bill 2001, which would make New Jersey’s sterile syringe access programs permanent and appropriate $95,000 to fund the programs. The Senate session is scheduled to begin at 2pm. Senate Bill 2001 is sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex).
Hearing to be Held This Thursday, June 7th in State House Annex, Committee Room 1 at 1PM
Public Health Advocates Tout Success of Programs and Urge Passage
of Life-Saving Legislation
Trenton—This Thursday, June 7th, the Senate Health, Human Relations and Senior Citizens Committee will vote on Senate Bill 2001, which would make New Jersey’s sterile syringe access programs permanent and appropriate $95,000 to fund the programs. It is vitally important that this legislation become law. The hearing will convene in Committee Room 1, on the first floor of the State House Annex, at 1pm. Senate Bill 2001 is sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex).
Public Health and HIV Prevention Advocates Cheer Enactment of Life-Saving Legislation
Trenton—Today Governor Chris Christie signed life-saving legislation (S958/A1088) to allow for the sale of limited numbers of syringes in pharmacies without a prescription. Public health advocates say the legislation will reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases. It will also benefit diabetics and others who must use injectable medications by making it easier for them to access syringes. New Jersey was one of only two states (the other is Delaware) that completely ban over-the-counter sales of syringes.