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Local and Community News

San Diego Program for Exchanging Needles to Be Reviewed

January 6, 2003

San Diego’s City Council approved its pilot needle exchange program by a one-vote margin in November 2001 over the objections of Mayor Dick Murphy. But under state law, the council every two weeks must vote to declare a state of emergency to allow the needle exchange to continue. Murphy said a needle exchange program runs counter to his goal of making San Diego America’s safest city. The council, which favors the needle exchange program 6-3, is set to make its first detailed review of the pilot program at a public hearing Tuesday.

So far, the number of dirty needles collected exceeds the number of clean ones given out, said Fran Butler Cohen, executive director of Family Health Centers of San Diego, which operates the needle exchange under a contract with the Alliance Healthcare Foundation. An AHF grant covers the needle exchange’s $334,000 cost. Nearly 18,000 dirty needles have been turned in since the program’s July start. As of mid-December, about 13,000 clean needles had been given out, Cohen said.

More importantly, Cohen said, 37 people who came to exchange needles have been referred to drug treatment programs, and 75 have been sent for detoxification. In addition, Cohen said 14 people have been referred to mental health programs, 135 people to primary medical care, and 244 to a variety of other programs, such as those that screen for hepatitis and STDs.

When the council approved the pilot program, the plan was to have it running by now in North Park and City Heights as well as downtown, but community opposition has made it difficult to find sites. Councilmember Toni Atkins, whose district includes City Heights and North Park, said she hopes to have sites chosen in those communities within a month. The problem is that with 171 people enrolled as repeat users at the downtown site and a shortage of space at drug treatment centers, the downtown exchange has reached capacity, Cohen said.

Back to other CDC news for January 6, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
San Diego Union-Tribune
01.05.2003; Ray Huard



  
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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.
 

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