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Illinois: Blagojevich Expected to Approve Over-the-Counter Syringe Sales

May 14, 2003

In a move that supporters hope will slow the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases, the Illinois House Tuesday passed a bill that would make sterile syringes available without a prescription to buyers age 18 and older. With the intent to discourage the sharing of dirty needles, the measure would also require the Illinois Department of Public Health to distribute information on drug treatment and safe disposal of syringes that pharmacies would include with each syringe purchase.

"This is a significant piece of legislation. It costs the state virtually no money, and it will prevent HIV infection," said Karen Reitan, state affairs director for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. After passing the House by a vote of 70-48 and clearing the Senate by a vote of 30-24, the bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Illinois, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware are the only states that require a prescription to buy syringes. Advocates have worked for several years to persuade legislators to change this. According to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, almost half of all new HIV infections result from IV drug use or sex with a drug user. "If people can have access to sterile syringes, they will, time after time, use clean syringes. The data has demonstrated very strongly that this really does help stem the spread of AIDS," said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), the bill's sponsor.

Critics of the bill contend that improper disposal of easy-to-buy needles could lead to accidents, and question whether addicts would go through the trouble and embarrassment of purchasing needles in a pharmacy without a prescription. Opponents also argue that easy access to needles might encourage illegal drug use in poorer communities.

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Adapted from:
Chicago Tribune
05.14.03; Christi Parsons; Kate McCann

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.


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