Pittsburgh Needle-Exchange Program May Expand Into Predominantly African-American Community
Prevention Point Pittsburgh, which operates a needle-exchange program in Allegheny County, Pa., is looking to expand its operations to the predominately African-American Hill District community, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Prevention Point Pittsburgh distributes more than 6,500 new syringes to about 157 injection drug users each week to help stop the spread of HIV and hepatitis. The program on Wednesday received approval from the Allegheny County Board of Health to raise the $100,000 it needs to open its new site in the Hill District. The health department would provide space for the needle exchange, but Prevention Point Pittsburgh would be responsible for raising the funds to run the program, according to the Post-Gazette. Some board members "expressed frustration" about the lack of statistics on how many people participate in the needle-exchange program and "raised concerns" about the possibility of people involved in the program selling the needles to others. Prevention Point staffer Alice Bell said that secondary distribution does occur, adding, "Our goal is really to get many clean syringes into the drug-using community, enough so that people can use a clean sterile syringe every time they inject." Prevention Point is currently undergoing an internal review that will follow 75 program participants to assess whether the program's services help participants reduce their risky behaviors. The Hill District site could open in June if the program receives final approve from the health department. Before the needle-exchange program is allowed to expand, Prevention Point will have to provide the department with its total number of participants, research on similar programs in other cities and the proportion of syringes returned (Srikameswaran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.