San Francisco’s Needle-Exchange Program Needs Reform, Better Management, Editorial Says
San Francisco's needle-exchange program has "reached the breaking point as far as public trust" is concerned and "needs to be managed more sensibly," a San Francisco Chronicle editorial says (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8).
The city's needle-exchange program, which began in 1992, distributes about 2.4 million needles annually but only receives 65% to 70% of them back after they are used. Under the current system, injection drug users can return their used syringes only during the hours needle exchanges or health clinics are open. Many unreturned needles have ended up in city parks, playgrounds and other outdoor areas. San Francisco officials and not-for-profit groups recently pledged to reform the city's program in response to public outcry over used syringes littering parks (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/6).
The needle-exchange program "amounts to a giveaway with no requirement or provision for returning the needles or disposing of them safely," the editorial says, adding that if IDUs "won't take responsibility, then the city needs to step in." According to the editorial, "Several steps are worth trying" -- including providing safe disposals sites for IDUs, establishing more clinics to handle the influx of returned needles, and providing homeless workers and park clean-up crews with portable disposal boxes -- "though not all may work." The city also should consider providing retractable syringes -- in which the needle fully retracts into the syringe's barrel after one injection -- the editorial adds.
"It's a sad commentary on San Francisco's politics that we even have to say that public safety must take priority over [IDUs'] preferences," the editorial says, concluding, "It's time to tighten up this program before it leads to a loss of innocent life" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8).