'Needle Exchange Program' is a perfect example of a paper on infections. In order to successfully diminish blood-borne infection transmissions such as hepatitis and HIV, programs should implement a wide-ranging methodology when addressing the intravenous drug user (IDU). The methods must include realistic policies that focus on both intravenous drug users and unsafe sexual activities. One of, if not the most significant of these methods, is making certain that IDU who will not or cannot discontinue drug use via injection have proper and unabated access to clean (sterile) needles. The transmission of viruses can occur either directly, such as when an infected IDU shares the same needle with others, or indirectly when an infected IDU shares injection equipment such as spoons, water or cotton, or when they use the same needle and drug with other IDU’ s. Blood-born viruses are transmitted very efficiently through the practice of injection. A vitally essential approach in the prevention of disease transmission involves making certain that habitual IDUs have unrestricted access to sterile syringes (Guydish et al, 1993). Currently, twenty-three states have put stringent legal restrictions in place regarding the sale of sterile syringes by pharmacies.
The laws require the purchasers to ‘ jump through hoops’ to simply buy a two-dollar instrument. As an example, state regulations require pharmacies to ask for picture identification, sign a special ‘ syringe purchaser registry’ and announce their reasons for the purchase. These practices greatly lessen an IDU’ s willingness and ability to buy sterile syringes. Even if states do not have such laws on the books, many pharmacies employ policies that require identical restrictions or if not that, pharmacy personnel many times will take it upon themselves to ‘ police’ the distribution of syringes and at best, make the IDU uncomfortable about the purchase. These legal barriers to the distribution of sterile syringes only act to spread HIV and contagious disease. The effort to legislate morality-based agendas is causing harmful health effects to not only IDUs but to others as well including unknowing sexual partners and unborn children. “ The fear and negative attitudes about drug use and IDUs felt by the general public, police, policymakers, and community leaders contribute to strong opposition to initiatives that might increase opportunities for IDUs to obtain sterile syringes” (“ Access” , 2000).
The IDU, not in the best of mental or financial circumstances as it is, fear incarceration and the social stigma attached to their habit. Restricting access to sterile syringes only acts to exacerbate the IDU's already desperate situation and is not in the best interest of the community regarding health, criminal or financial concerns. Free, legal and easily accessible syringes are a win-win for all concerned. In addition to reducing the spread of viruses, needle exchange programs (NEPs) reduce costs as well.
The annual budget for operating a NEP is estimated to be approximately $170,000. Two-thirds of this budget is needed for costs such as rent, overhead, and staffing. The average wholesale price for syringes is currently about $1.35 apiece which when factored with the other expenses; NEPs can exchange more than 100 syringes per day. The health costs associated with a person infected with AIDS are considerable. It is estimated that if just two people per NEP does not contract the virus, the exchange program would save the taxpayers money (“ Policy Facts” , 2001).
The American people have overwhelmingly offered their support for NEPs and numerous scientifically conducted studies have proven their effectiveness in reducing the transmission of viruses but, as is so often the case in this country, special interest groups control the actions of congress. The ignorance and fear of the few continue to cause untold harm to the many.
“Access to Sterile Syringes.” (June 2000). The Body.
Guydish, J.; Bucardo, J.; Young, M.; Woods, W.; Grinstead, O.; & Clark, W. “Evaluating Needle Exchange: Are There Negative Effects?” AIDS. Vol. 7, pp. 871-876. (1993).
“Policy Facts: Needle Exchange Facts.” Aids Action Council. (June 2001). February 14, 2009,