Needle Exchange

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Europe: Portugal Approves Safe Injection Sites, Moves to Start Prison Needle Exchange Programs

In an embrace of harm reduction principles, the Portuguese government has approved the establishment of safe injection sites for drug users and is working to have needle exchange programs in prisons by 2008, Medical News Today reported on August 30. The moves come as part of a package of measures designed to "reduce the consumption of drugs and diminish their harmful social and health effects," the Portuguese government said.

Portugal now follows the lead of Australia, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland, where working safe injection sites are in place. The sites have been shown to help slow the spread of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS, reduce overdoses, reduce criminality, help drug users achieve more stable lives, and help some of them connect with treatment and/or counseling services.

While, according to the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Drug Abuse, Portugal's drug use rates are low by European standards, the country does have an injection drug-using population, mostly around heroin. About one-third of a sample of treatment patients in Portugal reported drug injection as their preferred route of administration.

Portugal decriminalized drug possession in 2000, although drug sales remain illegal. But even if Portugal is not ready to take the giant step of ending drug prohibition, the actions of its government since then show that it continues to move in a progressive direction on drug policy issues.

Britain's First Needle Exchange Vending Machine Planned for North Wales Resort Town

Location: 
Colwyn Bay, CWY
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
Daily Post
URL: 
http://icnorthwales.icnetwork.co.uk/news/regionalnews/tm_objectid=17722733%26method=full%26siteid=50142%26headline=vending%2dmachine%2dto%2dsell%2ddrug%2dneedles-name_page.html#story_continue

Harm Reduction: Pittsburgh Needle Exchange Wins Health Board Approval for Continued Operation

Prevention Point Pittsburgh, the sole needle exchange provider in the Pittsburgh area, is one step closer to being allowed to continue to operate after the Allegheny County Board of Health Wednesday approved regulations formalizing its operation. The exchange program had come under attack in April, when county council members questioned its legality in what was in large part a bureaucratic spat between the council and the health board.

"We're incredibly pleased," Renee Cox, executive director of Prevention Point Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Thursday. "All in all, it's worked out well. It does grant us a little more permanency now that we have formal regulations."

It was a bumpy ride, though. After county council members complained in April, the health board in May drafted regulations that would have required people exchanging needles to give their names and other identifying information and would have banned "secondary exchanges," where people pick up needles and then distribute them to others not in the program. The board heard those complaints.

"They restored anonymity of exchangers, which is absolutely fundamental to the operation of the needle exchange," Cox said. "They also allowed for secondary exchange, which will expand the reach of this small program."

The new regulations must still be approved by the county council.

Health Board Okays Needle Exchange

Location: 
Pittsburgh, PA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
URL: 
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06250/719683-114.stm

No Honor for Last Holdout State Against Needle Exchange

A few weeks we reported in Drug War Chronicle that New Jersey had become the only state in the nation not allowing needle exchange programs in some form or at least syringe purchase without a prescription -- the second to last state, Delaware, passed a needle exchange law last month. The Times of New Jersey opined on the matter this morning in an opinion piece titled, "The Last One Standing." The Times writes:
After 13 years of debate without action, New Jersey is now the only state without a needle-exchange program -- a title the state should be embarrassed to hold, especially since its accompanying titles include fifth highest rate of adult HIV/AIDS cases in the nation and double the national percentage of cases caused by injection.
Having observed the issue in New Jersey for most of those years -- I well remember the days when Diana McCague and New Brunswick's The Chai Project mounted their open challenge to New Jersey's needle exchange prohibition -- and being originally from New Jersey myself, I am glad to see a major paper speak up again. According to the editorial there are "only a few loud legislators who are fundamentally opposed" to two state senate bills that would legalize needle exchange and permit prescriptionless syringe sales. In my view, those "loud legislators" have committed a monstrous crime against humanity -- really -- and so did the attorney general who squelched the newer programs opened by city emergency order through the courts. Former governor Whitman was maybe the worst villain in this. Large numbers of New Jerseyans are contracting AIDS and Hepatitis C through needle sharing, are dying from those diseases and spreading them to others. The scientific evidence supporting needle exchange programs is absolutely overwhelming. Talk about moral confusion! There should be new Chai Projects, in all the cities around the state, law or now law. Then let the legislators catch up and the opponents fall behind into history's dustbin where they belong.
Location: 
NJ
United States

Harm Reduction: Needle Access Bills to Become Law in Delaware, Massachusetts

Governors in two states Monday signed into law bills that would ease injection drug users' access to clean needles. In one case, legislators overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact the law; in the other, the governor fended off Republican opposition to sign the bill.

In Delaware, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed into law a bill that will create a pilot needle exchange program in Wilmington. In her signing statement, Minner said she hopes the program will lower the state's HIV/AIDS infection rate and long-term health care costs associated with the disease.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Senate voted Monday night to join the House in overriding a Gov. Mitt Romney (R) veto of a bill that decriminalizes the possession of needles without a prescription and deregulates their sale.

Now, New Jersey is the only state with neither a needle exchange law nor a law providing access to needles without a prescription.

Harm Reduction: San Diego Reinstates Needle Exchange Program

The city of San Diego Wednesday rejoined the ranks of cities offering needle exchange programs as a public health service when the city council voted to reinstate the program. It had been dropped because of waning political support a year ago, but Wednesday it was re-approved on a 6-1 vote.

Needle exchanges were first approved in November 2001 and the program was launched in July 2002. It operated out of two centers, one in the East Village and one in North Park. During its operation, the program collected nearly 350,000 dirty needles and distributed more than 285,000 clean ones.

But until state law changed this year, cities or counties had to declare a public health emergency every two weeks to keep the programs operating. A year ago this month, the two-week vote failed, and the program was shut down.

Needle exchange programs are widely recognized to reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C by reducing the sharing of syringes. But some opponents accuse them of promoting or facilitating drug use.

Luana Stines, a pastor who addressed the council was one of them. "They don't need another needle," she said. "They need direction." Better to spend the money on faith-based counseling, she suggested.

No taxpayer funds are being used in San Diego. Alliance Healthcare, a local nonprofit that ran the program, has pledged $386,400 to fund it for the next two years.

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