Syringe Exchange Programs: A Matter Of Public Health

2358 words - 10 pages

According to the World Health Organization, “globally there are approximately 16 million people that inject drugs and 3 million of them are living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).” Once someone is infected with HIV, it is almost always fatal since there is currently no cure for the disease. A major component of HIV prevention is the Syringe Exchange Programs (SEP’s). SEP’s are one of the main resolutions that targets curbing the spread of blood-borne viruses among injecting drug users (IDU’s). With an estimated 1 in 5 injecting drug users worldwide infected with HIV, the program is vital to bringing this epidemic under control. 60 countries worldwide have reported HIV among IDUs and an additional 40 countries report a rash of injecting drug users with an upsurge in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Because increasing access to sterile syringes has been met with considerable controversy there are a few key factors I would like to address: The history of SEPs, SEPs life saving components, The Moral face of Syringe Exchange, HIV STATS for the United States and the state of Louisiana, financial savings benefit of SEP’s and the effectiveness of SEP’s.
SEP’s were started in the Netherlands in response to the alarming rate of IDUs being infected with Hepatitis B. In 1984 a drug-users advocacy group call the “Amsterdam Junkiebond,” began exchanging needles and syringes with support from the Municipal Health Service. Junkiebond members did not trust that pharmacist would be fair in their dealings with addicts in central areas so they decided to be the “middle man.” News of the program spread, once health officials in the United States learned of the program and began to study its benefits for fight against the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in our country by implementing the same programs used in the Netherlands.
Jon Parker, a former injection drug user was the first person to distribute injection equipment publicly in the United States. Parker, who was earning his master's degree in public health at Yale University, became irate by a statement made by one of his professors. The professors said “that addicts should not be the focus of HIV prevention efforts because they would not change their behavior.” Parker was outraged and organized meetings with IDUs to warn them of HIV transference. In one of his meetings two addicts came in with clean syringes, their actions motivated him. In 1986, Parker began distributing and exchanging needles and syringes on the streets of New Haven and Boston, Massachusetts. He has been arrested several times in eight states where it is still illegal to purchase syringes without a prescription. Because of foundational work by Jon Parker and the work in Amsterdam, in two year later the first SEP operated with a bit of community consent opened in Tacoma. In the same year, two more exchange programs surfaced, one in New York and another in San Francisco. Today, there are currently 203 exchange...

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