Needle-Exchange Pilot Program Launches in Camden, N.J.
The Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday examined the launch of a pilot needle-exchange program in Camden, N.J., that aims to prevent the spread of HIV among injection drug users. The program is the second to open in the state, the Inquirer reports (Sullivan, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/30). Another program has been in effect in Atlantic City since November 2007, and programs in Newark and Paterson will start this winter, according to Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey.
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services in August 2007 approved the establishment of three-year needle-exchange programs in the four cities. 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. The state health commissioner must report to the governor and state Legislature on whether the needle-exchange programs are effective. In addition, people who participate in and run the programs are required to carry identification cards that protect them from being arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. No state funding will be allocated to the cities for operating needle-exchange programs.
To be eligible for the program, a city must 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. Each program will be required to report data on the number of people participating in the programs and referred to drug treatment, the status of their treatment and the number of syringes exchanged. According to state Health Commissioner Fred Jacobs, the data will be used to promote the expansion of the programs and will remain anonymous (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/2).
Kim McCargo, director of the Camden program, said the needle-exchange is struggling because of a lack of funding. The exchange services are run out of a van that offers clean needles every Tuesday and funded with private grants. "It's discouraging, but we'll keep doing what we can," McCargo said, adding, "We really need more money to let people know that using clean needles can save lives." According to the Inquirer, seven people have signed up for Camden Area Health and Education Center's needle-exchange program. The New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System reports that 1,516 heroin and opiate users in Camden County sought its services in 2006. There were 1,384 HIV cases recorded in the city as of June 30, 2005, according to the New Jersey Division of HIV/AIDS Services (Sullivan, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/30).