Needle exchange program prevented 120 new cases of HIV in two years, study suggests

Sep 8, 2015

Todd Huffman

By George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health

The District of Columbia’s needle exchange program prevented 120 new cases of HIV infection and saved an estimated $44 million over just a two-year period, according to a first-of-a-kind study published today by researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.

“Our study adds to the evidence that needle exchange programs not only work but are cost-effective investments in the battle against HIV,” says Monica S. Ruiz, PhD, MPH, an assistant research professor in the Department of Prevention and Community Health at Milken Institute SPH. “We saw a 70 percent drop in newly diagnosed HIV cases in just two years. At the same time, this program saved the District millions of dollars that would have been spent for treatment had those 120 persons been infected.”

The new study, published in the scientific journal, AIDS and Behavior, may help to inform the ongoing debate among policymakers about whether to provide funding for programs that distribute sterile injection equipment to drug users. Last spring, health officials in Indiana’s Scott County created a needle exchange program to deal with injection drug use and the rapid spread of HIV–and local officials in other parts of the U.S. are considering the same move. Critics argue that such programs encourage illicit drug use. But other research has shown that drug users who come in for clean needles often get other health services-including referral to programs that treat drug addiction.

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One comment on “Needle exchange program prevented 120 new cases of HIV in two years, study suggests”

  • This is a view to how deeply antiquated the American drug addiction rehab system really is. We have plenty of data out there that easily points us in the direction of what works and what doesn’t work and yet the addiction industry is still stuck on moralistic, judgmental crap attitudes and the programs that go with them. Needle exchange programs are a no brainer excellent improvement. There are also medications that make a big difference for opiate addicts such as Suboxone and Vivitrol that are saving peoples lives and still not mainstream treatment here.

    I feel there might be a similarity between those who block needle exchange programs and those who block contraception for teens. Some holier than thous derive satisfaction from watching others suffer and possibly die as a punishment for their immoral bad behavior. They also share a mistaken belief that these types of problems couldn’t and wouldn’t ever happen to anyone in their own family or close to them so let those despicable “others” suffer for their own bad choices. “It’s not my problem!” and “One less junkie in the world. What’s not to like?” and “You dance-you pay the piper.”

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