Overwhelming Evidence Shows Sterile Syringe Access Reduces Spread of HIV, Hepatitis C And Does Not Increase Drug Use

Press Release September 16, 2004
Media Contact

Roseanne Scotti at 609-610-8243

Trenton–Supporters of legislation that would ease increase access to sterile syringes as a strategy for reducing the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases today declared that opponents were misrepresenting the overwhelming body of evidence on the effectiveness of syringe access.

“Every major medical, scientific, and professional organization that has studied the issue has concluded that sterile syringe access reduces the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases,” said Roseanne Scotti, Director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey.

Organizations that support syringe exchange include:

Scotti also cited six government studies that found sterile syringe access reduces the spread of HIV and does not increase drug use. The studies include a review of the research in 2000 that former Surgeon General David Satcher conducted at the request of Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. Satcher stated in his report that:

After reviewing all of the research to date, the senior scientists of the Department and I have unanimously agreed that there is conclusive scientific evidence that syringe exchange programs, as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention that reduces the transmission of HIV and does not encourage the use of illegal drugs. In many cases, a decrease in injection frequency has been observed among those attending these programs. In addition, when properly structured, syringe exchange programs provide a unique opportunity for communities to reach out to the active drug injecting population and provide for the referral and retention of individuals in local substance abuse treatment and counseling programs and other important health services. The scientific evidence accumulated to date provides a basis on which municipalities that are heavily affected by an HIV epidemic driven by injection drug use should consider syringe exchange programs as a tool for the identification, referral and retention of active users of injection drugs into these services, as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention plan.

In New Jersey, syringe access is supported by numerous organizations including the Medical Society of New Jersey, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the National Association of Social Workers–NJ Chapter, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, and the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey.

“It is difficult to imagine how anyone could argue with that kind of consensus from the medical and public health community. And it is particularly shameful when opponents purposefully distort data,” said Scotti.

For instance, opponents often cite two studies that were done in Montreal and Vancouver in the late 1990s as support for their proposition that syringe access is not effective. But this is not what the researchers who did the studies concluded. As a matter of fact, they were so upset by opponents of needle exchange who misrepresented their data that they wrote an editorial in the New York Times declaring that their data were being misrepresented and citing additional research which supported the effectiveness of syringe access.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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