Needle Exchange Programs : Fighting The Hiv Epidemic

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Needle Exchange Programs: Fighting the HIV Epidemic
Nicole Worthem
Lewis University

Needle exchange programs (NEPs) are programs which provide sterile syringes to injection drug users (IDUs) in exchange for used needles (Strathdee, 2004). The theory behind these programs lies on the foundation of harm reduction and circulation theory (Strathdee, 2004). The principle of harm reduction suggests that providing access to sterile supplies for injection of drugs, if the user “cannot or will not” quit using injection drugs, decreases the risk of harm to the IDU and those in the surrounding community (Strathdee, 2004). Circulation theory proposes that NEPs decrease the amount of time that used needles (potentially contaminated with blood-borne disease) are in the community (Strathdee, 2004). In addition to provision of sterile injection supplies, NEPs provide many services that are essential to the health and wellness of IDUs in the community (CDC, 2005). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), some of these services include:
HIV/AIDS education and counseling’ condom distribution to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; referrals to substance abuse treatment and other medical and social services distribution of alcohol swabs to help prevent abscesses and other bacterial infections; on-site HIV testing and counseling and crisis intervention; screening for tuberculosis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and other

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