Pennsylvania: Health Board OKs Needle Exchange
September 8, 2006
On Sept. 6, the Allegheny County Board of Health approved a regulation that allows the continued operation of a needle-exchange program operated by Prevention Point Pittsburgh (PPP). The regulation must go to the county chief executive and County Council for final approval.
Six months ago, some council members questioned the needle-exchange program's legality, concerned that it had operated -- with the board's authorization -- under a declaration of public health emergency rather than under an ordinance.
A May regulation drafted by the health board would have required names and other identifying information from needle exchangers, and prevented "secondary exchange" (registered program users obtaining clean needles for others who are not officially signed up). Under criticism from local and national authorities, the health board made significant changes to the regulation.
"They restored anonymity of exchangers, which is absolutely fundamental to the operation of the needle exchange," said Renee Cox, executive director of PPP. "They also allowed for secondary exchange, which will expand the reach of this small program."
Dr. Bruce W. Dixon, director of the county Health Department, said some public officials preferred restrictive measures while others took a more permissive stance, adding that the regulation codified what the health board had sanctioned under the emergency declaration. "Part of the problem when you formalize things, you have to set the rules down in stone," Dixon said. "That's what some of this debate and discussion was about."
PPP has operated exchange services for the past four years, aiming to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis among intravenous drug users.
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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.