New York: AIDS Community Resources Seeks State Approval to Give Addicts Clean Syringes
April 29, 2010
AIDS Community Resources is seeking state approval for a mobile syringe exchange program in Syracuse in a bid to prevent HIV, hepatitis, and other infections among injection drug users (IDUs). Fifteen years ago, ACR's proposal for a fixed-site SEP was derailed by community opponents, including the mayor.
Today, 18 SEPs operate in New York, one in every major city in the state, and Catholic Charities launched a program in Albany this year. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner supports the idea, as does Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and the county's health commissioner, Dr. Cynthia Morrow.
"We're really a hole in the middle of the state," said Michael Crinnin, ACR's executive director.
Under ACR's proposal, the nonprofit would incorporate the SEP into its mobile street outreach program. The group's van already is equipped to screen for HIV and other STDs, and outreach workers offer condoms, counseling, and information about treatments and interventions.
"We're into harm reduction," said Crinnin. "We have an obligation to help people understand how you can avoid transmission."
Two years ago, ACR's van began distributing vouchers that IDUs can redeem at Harvey's Pharmacy, 833 E. Genesee St., for 10 free sterile syringes and a container for used ones. While Harvey's was the only pharmacy to participate, the success of that outreach motivated Crinnin to propose an SEP.
Harvey's owner, Gary Brothers, said IDUs redeem 40-50 vouchers each month. "I had my reservations at first, but the program has worked marvelously," said Brothers, noting many IDUs are repeat clients. "The overall goal is to get them to change so they are not engaging in those practices that would require a syringe," he said.
04.26.2010; James T. Mulder