New Jersey: Needle Exchange Program Helping Many and Should Continue, Says Report
April 14, 2010
New Jersey's pilot syringe access programs provide many public health benefits, without raising crime rates, according to an interim review. Seventy-eight percent of SAP clients said they hoped to avoid infections and needle-sharing. The state Department of Health and Senior Services commissioned the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to conduct the evaluation, which was mandated by law.
In 2006, New Jersey authorized pilot SAPs for up to six municipalities, and five cities currently host sites. The programs are not state-funded but run by private community agencies.
The SAPs enrolled 4,482 IDUs, and an additional 1,324 non-SAP IDUs received clean injection supplies through secondary exchangers. The sites collected 295,736 used syringes and gave clients 706,568 sterile ones.
Of the SAP clients, 998 were successfully enrolled in drug treatment, representing 49 percent of all referrals for treatment under the Division of Addiction Services' Needle Exchange Treatment Initiative. In fact, 10 percent of clients saw SAP participation as a first step to becoming drug-free, the report notes. In Newark's SAP, operated by the New Jersey Community Research Initiative, 25 percent of some 1,250 clients have been admitted to treatment programs, said Bob Baxter, an institute director.
Many IV drug users (IDUs) are young adults. In Atlantic City's SAP, people ages 18-25 represented 24 percent of all clients; this age group accounted for 19.5 percent of Camden SAP enrollees. Those proportions were "higher than expected," the report said. Nationally, rates of hepatitis C virus infection are four times higher than HIV rates among young IDUs, the report said, noting that after five years of injecting, up to 90 percent of IDUs become HCV-infected.
A final report is due in January. The interim review, which includes recommendations to continue SAPs and increase outreach, can be viewed at www.state.nj.us/health/aids/documents/nj_sep_evaluation.pdf.
04.09.2010; Susan K. Livio
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.