Miami Herald Examines Spread of HIV Among IDUs in Florida
The Miami Herald on Thursday examined the spread of HIV among injection drug users in Florida. According to the Herald, needle-exchange programs are banned in the state, so some health workers distribute sterilization equipment in an effort to curb the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases.
The lack of needle-exchange programs is "especially worrisome" for Miami-Dade County, which had the highest rate of people living with AIDS in the U.S. in 2006, according to CDC, the Herald reports. The Florida Department of Health has found that 13% of the 37,000 people in Miami-Dade living with HIV in 2007 contracted the virus through injection drug use. In Broward County, 11% of the people living with HIV in 2007 contracted the virus through injection drug use. In addition, a recent study conducted by the University of Miami and the health department found that of 934 interviewed IDUs in both counties, 29% reported reusing needles, and 52% said they had reused paraphernalia to prepare injections.
"Scientific research shows that in the context of a public health program, the exchange of needles reduces the prevalence of HIV/AIDS," UM President and former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala said, adding, "Our community ought to follow the science." Tom Liberti, who heads the state HIV/AIDS bureau, said, "We have the responsibility of preventing the spread of HIV in Florida," adding, "[B]ut we don't have the main tool for preventing the transmission of HIV through the exchange of used needles." Jose Szapocznik, chair of UM's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said that needle-exchange programs "protec[t] the entire society, not just" IDUs (Roth, Miami Herald, 5/22).