NJ Needle Exchange Program Should Continue Says Health Department
The New Jersey Department of Health has released a report recommending continuation of the Syringe Access Program (SAP) that is credited with helping 10,000 residents of Atlantic City, Camden, Newark, Jersey City and Paterson reduce their risk of HIV and hepatitis and gain access to an array of public health and social services.
Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd says, “This demonstration program has served a hard-to-reach population and at-risk population, successfully helping Intravenous drug users to reduce their chance of contracting and spreading HIV and hepatitis through the use of unsterile needles.”
Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, one of the prime sponsors of the law that created New Jersey’s Sterile Syringe Access Program welcomes the report.
“From a public health perspective, it’s clear that this program has been a measurable success,” says Gusciora. “Since its inception five years ago, the syringe access program has met our primary objectives of preventing and controlling the spread of diseases, and more importantly, providing a pathway to treatment for thousands of individuals…….When it comes to bringing this life-saving service to one of our hardest to reach populations, the collaboration that goes on between various public health sectors is all the more commendable.”
The demonstration program was authorized by the “Blood-borne Disease Harm Reduction Act” of 2006 to reduce HIV transmission rates in the state. It allowed for up to six municipalities to participate in syringe access programs. Five municipalities participated.
In January, Governor Chris Christie signed into law a measure allowing pharmacies to sell syringes over-the-counter without a prescription. As the report notes, “Further evaluation will be necessary to determine the effectiveness of maintaining the current structured syringe exchange program after full implementation.”
Gusciora says, “I look forward to seeing this program continued and hopefully expanded.”