Syringe exchange programs are key to addressing injection drug abuse
In a joint policy statement, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) expressed their support for increasing access to sterile injection equipment through syringe exchange programs and for increasing access to drug replacement therapy for people who inject drugs.
Injection drug use is a major route of transmission for HIV, viral hepatitis, and other blood-borne pathogens through the sharing or re-use of infected paraphernalia. "We urge members of Congress to support a cost effective, evidenced-base prevention tool by ending the ban on federal funds for syringe exchange programs," said HIVMA chair Joel Gallant, MD, MPH, FIDSA. The prohibition has largely been included in the annual spending bill for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education programs since the 1980's. It was briefly lifted from 2009 to 2011.
Based on both organizations' commitment to evidence-based public health interventions that both increase access to healthcare and decrease transmission of infection and a review of epidemiological evidence, IDSA and HIVMA stated their support for efforts to:
- end the prohibition on federal funding for syringe exchange programs;
- increase access to drug replacement therapy for people who inject drugs;
- reform and decriminalize syringe possession and paraphernalia laws;
- provide over-the-counter syringe access;
- establish community-based syringe access and disposal programs that are safe, accessible and discreet.
"In addition to contributing to a decrease in incidence of HIV and viral hepatitis, syringe exchange programs also provide a point of access to healthcare for underserved populations," said Barbara Murray, MD, FIDSA, president of IDSA. "By providing condoms, counseling, testing, and entry into drug abuse treatment, syringe exchange programs do much more than provide clean needles. They are a critical component of an effective response to a major public health crisis that continues to increase."
Both IDSA and HIVMA have supported syringe exchange programs since 2001 and continue to advocate for science based policies that will equip local communities with the resources to meet the challenges of HIV, viral hepatitis and other blood-borne pathogens.