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September 07, 2005

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Tom

Why are hours so limited??

Daniel Raymond

Tom wrote:

Why are hours so limited??


Hours are limited primarily by resources -- all of these programs want to reach as many people as possible, but they are constrained by limited funding to pay for staff time. The situation in New York has improved over the last few years, with new programs in new areas and increased funding from both the city and state government for syringe exchange.

However, Congress prohibits the use of federal money for syringe exchange. Since federal dollars are the single largest source of HIV prevention funding, needle exchange programs are shut out of the major funding stream that supports HIV prevention (there is virtually no federal money available for hepatitis C prevention). The ban on federal funding of syringe exchange also extends to substance abuse prevention and treatment (including outreach programs), community health centers, and other important areas of health and social services that reach people who inject drugs. Advocacy efforts are under way to convince Congress to lift the funding ban.

In New York, people can now purchase syringes at pharmacies without a prescription, supplementing the role of needle exchange programs (though without the education, counseling, and other services offered by needle exchange). This means that for those who can afford it (a package of ten syringes typically costs around $3.00 at a pharmacy), people who inject drugs can buy new syringes in virtually all neighborhoods of New York City during pharmacy hours, which typically run into the evening at larger drug stores (such as big chains like Rite Aid and CVS).

A new initiative in New York, called Peer Delivered Syringe Exchange, allows needle exchange programs to train their participants as volunteers. These volunteers can then bring new syringes to other drug users who don't go to needle exchange programs (due to limited hours, location, etc.) and collect & dispose of their used syringes. In effect, these volunteers become one-man (or one-woman) needle exchange programs for their peer groups, extending the reach of needle exchange even further.

So things aren't perfect -- and we need to remove the federal funding ban -- but syringe access has improved dramatically in New York City during this decade.

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