New Jersey’s Needle-Exchange Programs Could Prevent Increased Number of HIV Cases Among IDUs, Officials Say
A needle-exchange program in Newark, New Jersey, this year could help prevent the use and circulation of more than 130,000 contaminated needles and about 600 HIV cases among injection drug users, program officials said recently, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. In 2008, the North Jersey Community Research Initiative began a needle-exchange program in Newark without state funding that now serves about 600 clients, according to Bob Baxter, director of NJCRI's addiction and education services. "People think it is enabling and increasing the use of drugs," Baxter said, adding that it is "just the opposite. It's a public health issue." Supporters of the programs say there is a clear need, pointing to a recent report from the state's Department of Health and Senior Services that found 40% of the 71,812 new HIV cases in New Jersey as of June 2008 were contracted through injection drug use.
Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in 2006 signed legislation that allowed four needle-exchange pilot programs to be established in Atlantic City, Camden, Newark and Paterson. The four programs serve about 2,100 clients, relying solely on private donations, including less than $100,000 annually each from corporate donors, according to Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. "All the programs are running on a shoestring, on a wing and a prayer," Scotti said, adding that the economy could result in donors reducing funding. In addition, the programs provide IDUs with access to treatment, Scotti said. According to Baxter, 100 clients have enrolled in drug rehabilitation since January. Scotti said that although it is too soon to determine the programs' impact on HIV or other infectious diseases in the state, evidence from cities with long-standing programs is dramatic. She added that she has "seen over and over and over again the change it makes in peoples' lives" (Juri, Newark Star-Ledger, 4/13).