Number of U.S. Needle-Exchange Programs Declining But Number of Syringes Exchanged Increasing, Survey Shows
The number of needle-exchange programs in the U.S. is declining, but the number of syringes being exchanged is increasing, according to a survey published Thursday in the July 15 issue of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Reuters reports (Simao, Reuters, 7/14). C. A. McKnight and colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston in 2003 surveyed 148 needle-exchange programs identified through the North American Syringe Exchange Network. The researchers determined that the number of exchange programs in the U.S. decreased from 154 in 2000 to 148 in 2002, and the number of states and territories with such programs declined from 35 to 32 during that time. In addition, public funding for the programs decreased 18% over that time (Reuters Health, 7/14). However, the number of used syringes exchanged for clean ones at clinics, mobile vans and other sites increased from 22.6 million in 2000 to 24.9 million in 2002, according to the survey. Researcher Don Des Jarlais said the findings emphasize the ongoing importance of needle-exchange programs in preventing new HIV infections and providing HIV testing and drug treatment referrals (Reuters, 7/14). Needle-exchange programs "provide health and social services to [injection drug users] who might not otherwise be reached," the researchers write in the report, concluding, "Continued monitoring of [the programs] in the United States is necessary to evaluate the long-term effects of this public health intervention" (MMWR, 7/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.