Needle-Exchange Programs in Five New Jersey Cities Expected To Launch Soon, Official Says
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is reviewing criteria from five cities in the state that applied to establish needle-exchange programs, and a decision is expected soon, health department spokesperson Tom Slater said on Tuesday, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. According to Slater, Atlantic City, Camden, Newark, Paterson and Trenton have applied to run programs. He added that the first pilot projects likely will be launched by the end of the summer (Delli Santi, AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/12).
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in December 2006 signed into law a bill that allows six cities to establish needle-exchange programs and provides $10 million to drug treatment programs in the state. New Jersey has the highest HIV incidence among women in the U.S. and ranks fifth in HIV prevalence in the country. In addition, it is the only state that does not allow injection drug users access to clean needles through community-based needle-exchange programs or with a prescription.
According to the New Jersey health department, 14% of new HIV/AIDS cases in the state in 2005 were attributed to injection drug use. The state health commissioner under the legislation must report to the governor and Legislature on whether the needle-exchange program is effective. In addition, people who participate in and run the programs would be required to carry identification cards that protect them from being arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/21/06).
To be eligible for the program, a city much have at least 300 HIV/AIDS cases attributed to injection drug use per 100,000 residents and at least 350 confirmed HIV/AIDS cases overall. Twelve cities are eligible for the program but only five have applied, the AP/Newsday reports. According to Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, Atlantic City and Camden are expected to establish the first programs. The Newark City Council recently approved a similar measure, according to the AP/Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 6/12). The Patterson City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance enabling the city to establish an exchange program, the Herald News reports (MacInnes, Herald News, 6/14).