Maryland: Chinese Official Tours Baltimore Needle Exchange Program
July 26, 2005
On Friday, Dr. Pan Qicaho, director of the STD/AIDS department at the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China, met with Baltimore health officials and visited a needle-exchange program credited with helping to lower HIV infections among the city's IV drug users. Asia has the second-highest number of HIV/AIDS cases, surpassed only by sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, China and Malaysia announced plans to incorporate needle exchanges into their government AIDS initiatives.
According to Sherry Adeyemi, COO of the Baltimore health department, the city program has enrolled more than 15,000 clients, exchanged at least 7 million needles, tested more than 3,000 people for HIV, and placed 2,700 into drug treatment programs. Since the program started in 1994, Baltimore's number of HIV cases attributed to IV drug use has dropped from approximately 60 percent of all cases to 41 percent in 2003, the department said.
Adeyemi said Pan was "very pleased" by the program. "He said the biggest obstacle that he sees is the individuals [in China] that are drug users probably would have problems with coming and identifying themselves to exchange needles. They just don't want to be known because a lot of them are prominent." China has about 1 million drug users, including around 20,000 in Shanghai, the majority of whom are IV drug users, Pan told city officials.
Baltimore has the state's only needle-exchange program, said Adeyemi. In Maryland, needles can be purchased without a prescription although purchasers must show identification and indicate why the syringes are needed, according to the Law, Policy and Public Health center at Temple University's Beasley School of Law, which monitors state laws and regulations governing syringe exchange.
07.22.05; Alex Dominguez