Local and Community News
Pennsylvania: Needle Exchange Program Running Smoothly
June 5, 2002
The first legal needle exchange program in Allegheny County, Pa., has run smoothly with little fanfare during its first six weeks of operation, according to leaders of Prevention Point Pittsburgh (PPP). Since April 7, the nonprofit organization has set up tables between 12:30 and 2 p.m. each Sunday in the back parking lot of the Allegheny County Health Department in Oakland to hand out free needles, bottle caps for cooking drugs, alcohol prep pads and condoms.Adapted from:
The public forum has opened up new outreach opportunities. A certified HIV tester is offering free counseling and testing. This has been provided by the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and the Partnership for Minority HIV/AIDS Prevention. In addition, the Staunton Farm Foundation recently approved a $39,600 grant that will enable PPP to hire an outreach worker to help drug addicts find medical and rehabilitation services and housing and to meet other needs. The foundation, which funds projects in behavioral health and substance abuse, had waited for the Health Department to approve the public exchange program before providing funding. The approval came late last year, when the department declared a public health emergency because of the spread of blood-borne diseases -- such as HIV and the more rampant hepatitis C -- through infected needles. The board held three public hearings, receiving mostly support for legalizing the program.
It is still illegal to distribute and use non-prescription needles in Pennsylvania; however, counties can get around that by declaring a public health emergency, as Philadelphia did years ago. Although response varies at the public exchange, the total number of needles distributed each week remains fairly stable, said group coordinator Alice Bell. The Health Department will evaluate the public exchange after its first year to determine if it will continue.
06.04.02; Deborah Weisberg
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.