More needle exchange programs are needed for people who inject drugs in rural and suburban areas, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Addiction rates are rising in non-urban areas. Giving new, sterile needles and syringes to people who inject drugs in exchange for a used one reduces their risk of contracting or spreading HIV and hepatitis C, HealthDay reports.
The study found 69 percent of needle exchange programs in the United States are located in cities. Only 20 percent are in rural areas and 9 percent are in suburban areas. Only 37 percent of programs in rural areas offer the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, compared with 61 of urban programs.
“Syringe service programs (SSPs) have been very effective in reducing HIV transmission in the U.S. and throughout the world,” study author Don Des Jarlais of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City said in a news release. “Our data show that rural and suburban SSPs face some special challenges in recruiting clients, funding and staffing, but that these programs can provide the needed services when they are implemented. The biggest problem is simply that we do not have enough of them in rural and suburban areas. State and local governments can save lives by extending these programs.”
A syringe-exchange program started in Indiana in response to an HIV outbreak has led to a significant drop in needle sharing among intravenous drug users, according to a CDC study published in October.
In March, Indiana Governor Mike Pence declared a public health emergency as the state battled the HIV outbreak. The governor authorized a short-term program in one county to exchange used needles for sterile ones, to reduce the risk of contaminated needles being shared. In May, Pence signed a law that extends the program, allowing Indiana localities with health emergencies to begin their own needle exchanges.