The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) recently sent a notice to its subscribers reporting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report making a strong call for expanding syringe access programs. HRC’s notice is reproduced below.
The report, released ahead of World AIDS Day on Thursday, December 1st, states:
“Swift action can lead to further decreases in HIV diagnoses and prevent new outbreaks among PWID.”
Harm Reduction Coalition welcomes the release of the new report as it reaffirms that syringe access programs work to prevent HIV and hepatitis C and acknowledges that there is an insufficient number of programs operating across the country. In a statement released to the media, Harm Reduction Coalition’s Policy Director, Daniel Raymond, stated:
“Since the Indiana HIV outbreak, the policy landscape for syringe exchange has shifted dramatically. For communities on the frontlines of the opioid and heroin crisis, the pressing questions about syringe access programs are no longer whether to implement them, but how quickly they can scale up.”
CDC’s Vital Signs report notes significant progress: annual new HIV diagnoses due to shared syringes have fallen by nearly 50% since 2008, with the greatest declines among African Americans and Latinos. In parallel, a survey of people who inject drugs in 22 cities found a significant increase in people using syringe services programs since 2006.
Despite this progress, the CDC report called attention to the rising hepatitis C rates as a sign of insufficient access to syringe exchange. The report authors noted:
“The supply of sterile syringes available to most PWID is likely to be insufficient to meet their needs, and barriers remain to accessing SSPs, including lack of SSPs in rural areas and absence of legal support in many states.”
HRC’s notice goes on to say that we are at a pivotal moment in the history of syringe exchange. In the past two years, we’ve seen the most dramatic expansion in new harm reduction programs since the height of the AIDS epidemic in the early 90’s. But we’re racing against time: new hepatitis C infections and the risk of further HIV outbreaks demonstrate why syringe access remains a vital but underutilized public health-oriented harm reduction tool.
For more information on the CDC report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/hiv-drug-use/index.html.