U.S. News

Needle-Exchange Pilot Programs Launch in New Jersey

January 2, 2008

The Philadelphia Inquirer last week examined the launch of pilot needle-exchange programs in New Jersey that aim to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among injection drug users. The pilot program has been in effect in Atlantic City since Nov. 27. A program in Camden is scheduled to launch this month, and programs in Newark and Paterson will start this winter, Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, said (Urgo, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/24/07).

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services in August approved the establishment of three-year needle-exchange programs in the four cities. Gov. Jon Corzine (D) in December 2006 signed into law a bill that allows six cities to establish needle-exchange programs and provides $10 million to drug treatment programs in the state. The state health commissioner must report to the governor and state Legislature on whether the needle-exchange programs are effective. In addition, people who participate in and run the programs are required to carry identification cards that protect them from being arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. No state funding will be allocated to the cities for operating needle-exchange programs.

To be eligible for the program, a city must have at least 300 HIV/AIDS cases attributed to injection drug use per 100,000 residents and at least 350 confirmed HIV/AIDS cases overall. Each program will be required to report data on the number of people participating in the programs and referred to drug treatment, the status of their treatment and the number of syringes exchanged. According to state Health Commissioner Fred Jacobs, the data will be used to promote the expansion of the programs and will remain anonymous (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/2/07).

According to the Inquirer, New Jersey is the last state to implement needle-exchange programs. Supporters of the pilot programs note that about 45% of New Jersey's new reported HIV cases involve infection due to injection drug use using contaminated needles. Some opponents of the programs have said needle exchanges appear to condone or promote injection drug use, the Inquirer reports.

The Atlantic City program is administered by Health and Human Services for Atlantic City and operates out of the South Jersey AIDS Alliance's Oasis Center. Georgett Watson, program director of the alliance, said that in the first few weeks the program provided 90 clients with 11 clean needles for every used needle clients returned. Two of the clients who came in to exchange needles have entered treatment programs, Watson said (Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/24/07).

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