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U.S. News

New Jersey: Measure to Allow Syringe Sales at Pharmacies Advances

January 24, 2011

On Thursday, a New Jersey Senate committee voted 6-3 to approve a bill that would authorize pharmacy sales of syringes to persons without a prescription. Access to sterile syringes at drug stores is "the next level of reform" to help injection drug users (IDUs), said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), one of the bill's sponsors.

To prevent blood-borne infections through needle sharing among IDUs, the state allows up to six municipalities to operate needle-exchange programs (NEPs). Only five do so: Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City, Newark, and Paterson.

Under the bill, pharmacies could sell up to 10 syringes to an adult without a prescription. The stores would have to provide such customers with sharps disposal information, as well as treatment information, in English and Spanish.

"This isn't about judging individuals who are addicted to intravenous drugs, but about slowing the spread of HIV/AIDS," said Vitale.

James Carrington, a patient-advocate with the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in New Brunswick, praised the NEPs. However, because they are "only available in five cities, many individuals are unable to reach these programs because of the distance to these sites due to their work schedules and issues with confidentiality." "As a client and former drug user, if I had access to clean syringes, I believe that I would not have become HIV-infected," he said.

Karen Walker, who works at the Paterson Counseling Center's NEP, said she knows some IDUs "who would prefer to go to a pharmacy."

In the committee, Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) voted against the measure, saying it did not help the individual IDU or community. "You've got the needles, now come here and fight for drug treatment," Rice said. "That's what you should be doing."

Back to other news for January 2011

Adapted from:
The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)
01.21.2011; Susan K. Livio

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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.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
Needle Exchange & HIV/AIDS: New Jersey

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