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CDC makes plea for needle exchange programs to prevent HIV among opioid users

Michael Velardo | Flickr

The nation’s opioid crisis is threatening to undo decades of HIV prevention work, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

In response to a national survey of intravenous drug users in 22 cities, they’re calling for wider distribution of clean needles.  

“The science shows that syringe services programs work,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "They save lives, and they save money." 

Nearly a year after Congress ended a ban on federal funding for needle exchanges, there are two such programs in the state of Missouri. One is the Kansas City CARE Clinic, and another is at the Criminal Justice Ministry in St. Louis. In the Metro East, there is a needle exchange at Bethany Place Belleville, Ill. Still, large swaths of both states remain without access to one, as the country faces rising rates of heroin addiction.

“We have people who are not using clean needles and they’re transmitting HIV. Making clean needles available to them is going to help reduce the risk of transmission,” said Jeremy Beshears, an HIV testing coordinator at Washington University in St. Louis. “Absolutely we would advocate for having a program here.”

New data released by the CDC shows that white intravenous drug users were more likely to share needles than any other ethnic group. Heroin use among whites has also increased more quickly than any other demographic. On Tuesday, the CDC announced funding for needle exchange programs in 14 states and three West Virginian counties.

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB

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