Study: Needle Exchange Policy Prevented HIV

Needles used at an exchange in Indiana earlier in 2015. (Matt Stone, The Courier-Journal)
Needles used at an exchange in Indiana earlier in 2015. (Matt Stone, The Courier-Journal)

(USA Today) – Lifting a ban on spending city money on needle exchanges for intravenous drug users prevented 120 new cases of HIV in two years in Washington, according to a new study that researchers hope can help other communities deal with a surge in addicts shooting up.

“Policy change makes a difference,” says Monica Ruiz of George Washington University, lead author of the research being published Thursday in the journal AIDS and Behavior. “While this study looks at (Washington), D.C., we’re seeing the same thing in Indiana,” which recently changed its policy to make needle exchanges legal in certain public health emergencies amid the state’s largest-ever HIV outbreak.

Needle exchanges, where addicts can trade dirty syringes for clean ones, have long been controversial. Proponents say the 220 or so across the nation effectively curb the spread of disease. But opponents argue that they enable addicts to keep using.


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