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Needle Exchange: An Effective Strategy To Prevent Disease Transmission Without Increasing Drug Usage.

4343 words - 17 pages

Running head: NEEDLE EXCHANGE: AN EFFECTIVE STRATEGY

Needle exchange: An effective strategy to prevent disease transmission without increasing drug usage
Earl Driscoll
Community College of Philadelphia
English 102
Professor Douglas Hohen
May 1, 2005

Abstract
Needle exchange saves lives. Every life is worth saving. Needle exchange is controversial due to questions about efficacy as well as the fear that needle exchange encourages drug usage. The individuals who needle exchange targets are marginalized members of society and as such are viewed by some as disposable; not deserving of the life saving intervention of needle exchange. This paper will look at the literature, research, current opinions, an opinion survey, and include an interview with a staff member of a needle exchange program [NEP].

Needle exchange: An effective strategy to prevent disease transmission without increasing drug usage
Introduction
Needle exchange is a strategy to reduce the spread of bloodborne disease by providing injection drug users (IDU) with sterile syringes in exchange for used contaminated syringes. According to Cothran (2001):
Based on the assessment that it is impossible to eliminate completely intravenous drug use in society, needle exchanges were first instituted in Amsterdam in 1983 to prevent the transmission of hepatitis B and H.I.V. (human immunodeficiency virus, the causative agent of AIDS), which can occur when needles are shared. (p. 42)
Needle exchange is a strategy of harm reduction. According to Hilton, Thompson, Moore-Dempsey, and Janzen (2001):
Harm reduction does not seek to eliminate drug use; it focuses on minimizing the personal and social harms and costs associated with drug use and spread of HIV. It seeks to ameliorate conditions surrounding drug use responsible for the spread of HIV in the IDU community: unequal access to health services; sharing of infected needles; racial and social discrimination; poverty; exposure to street violence; inadequate housing; lack of employment; poor general or mental health and other demographic and social determinates. (p.357)
According to Strathdee (2004) two fundamental principles are at the heart of needle exchange: harm reduction and circulation theory. The former is a pragmatic strategy to reduce the acquisition of infectious diseases among injection drug users. HIV and other bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis B and C are bigger threats than ongoing drug use. When someone who injects drugs contracts the HIV virus and has unprotected sex with a person who does not inject drugs, the injection drug user potentially infects the non-injection drug using partner. Obviously harm reduction not only reduces the harm to the individuals who inject drugs, but to the larger community as well. The later is a theory that needle exchange will reduce the amount of time that a potentially contaminated syringe is in the community. When a syringe is in the community for a shorter time it becomes less likely...

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