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Reuters Health Information (2005-07-14): US syringe exchange programs declining

Public Health

US syringe exchange programs declining

Last Updated: 2005-07-14 15:49:24 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Some syringe exchange programs in the US have ceased operations in recent years, and public funding for exchange programs has declined, according to an article in the July 15th issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Exchange programs help prevent transmission of HIV and other bloodborne infections by increasing access to sterile syringes among injection drug users (IDUs) and safely disposing of used syringes, lead author Dr. C. A. McKnight, from New York's Beth Israel Medical Center, and colleagues note. Exchange programs also offer social services, such as provision of condoms, referrals for substance-abuse treatment, and testing for HIV and viral hepatitis.

In 2003, Dr. McKnight's group conducted surveys among 148 exchange programs known to the North American Syringe Exchange Network.

"In 2002, for the first time in 8 years, the number of exchange programs, the number of localities with exchange programs, and the amount of public funding for exchange programs in the United States decreased," the authors report.

Specifically, the number of exchange programs declined from 154 to 148 between 2000 and 2002, primarily through loss of small programs, while the number of states and territories with exchange programs fell from 35 to 32. Public funding decreased 18%.

At the same time, the number of syringes exchanged increased 20.2% and total budgets increased 7.4%.

Such programs "provide health and social services to IDUs who might not otherwise be reached," the authors conclude. "Continued monitoring of exchange programs in the United States is necessary to evaluate the long-term effects of this public health intervention."

Mor Mortal Wkly Rep CDC Surveill Summ 2005.

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