August 1, 2012
Needle-exchange programs save money and lower the HIV transmission rate among IV drug users, according to studies presented at the 19th International AIDS Conference and reported by NPR's Shots blog. A 10 percent expansion of NEPs in the United States would cost $64 million each year but save $193 million in averted HIV treatment costs, researchers said at the IAC.
In Wilmington, a state-funded NEP run by Brandywine Counseling & Community Services offers IV drug users free HIV testing and counseling, substance abuse treatment, safe-sex kits, and pregnancy screening in a program to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.
"We try to find out if an individual is actively in treatment [for substance abuse], and we encourage them to get into treatment," said Ralph Bradley, the NEP's director. "The van will call and set up the first appointment for them."
Brandywine has a drop-in NEP in partnership with Walgreens pharmacy locations in the city. An NEP van also visits high-risk areas. Several clients have been referred, without repercussions, by police, said Jim Dickinson, HIV prevention program administrator for the state Division of Public Health.
Some 594 individual HIV tests have been conducted from the van, and seven HIV-positive people were immediately linked with antiretroviral treatment. Each HIV infection prevented saves more than $600,000 in averted treatment costs, Bradley said.
"The cascade effect doesn't just serve the people visiting the van," Dickinson said. "Their partners don't always know they are shooting up, and they could be at risk for infection."
News Journal (Wilmington)
07.30.2012; Kelly April Tyrrell
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