Infected syringes result in 3,000-5,000 transmissions of HIV each year and an estimated 10,000 transmissions of the hepatitis C virus. As the opiate crisis continues to grow, injection drug use is only expected to increase. Syringe Service Programs (SSPs) are a proven cost-effective approach for preventing transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis among injection drug users. SSPs also facilitate proper disposal of used syringes, thus lowering the potential for exposure to contaminated needles in public spaces and reducing risk of “accidental sticks” to police, sanitation workers and others. SSPs provide comprehensive prevention services, including HIV and hepatitis counseling and testing, education to reduce sexual and drug use-related health risks, referral and linkage to care services to drug and alcohol addiction treatment, and referral/linkage to other medical and social services. On December 2015, Congress passed legislation that would allow the use of federal funding for syringe access programs. This represents an excellent opportunity to direct funding to communities in desperate need of resources to address injection drug use and overdose.
AIDS United calls on the Department of Health and Human Services, along with its subsidiary agencies, to implement federal funding as broadly as possible so as to encourage expansion of evidence-based prevention strategies for people who inject drugs. amfAR recently estimated that there are 194 syringe exchanges in 33 states–not nearly enough. AIDS United encourages local authorities to implement SSP programs in appropriate venues and urges state and local jurisdictions to remove any barriers to the legal operation of SSPs.
In response to the ongoing opiate crisis, more and more States are legalizing SSPs. However, restrictions in State and Federal funds on the purchase of injection equipment mean that private funding will continue to play a critical role in domestic SSP programing. That is why securing additional funding for the Syringe Access Fund remains a top priority for AIDS United.