Policy Expert Weighs In On Needle Exchange Program

A temporary syringe exchange program is in place in Scott County to combat the HIV epidemic in Indiana, but some policy experts say it's not a long-term solution.

Most of the 143 confirmed HIV cases are believed to be connected to injection drug use.

Bill Piper, director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance, says to stop the spread of HIV/AIDSHepatitis C and other infectious diseases, lawmakers need to make syringe exchanges permanent.

“The biggest barrier to syringe-exchange programs is politicians putting ideology above science,” he points out. “There's decades of research that shows syringe-exchange programs reduce the spread of infectious diseases without increasing drug use.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that syringe-exchange programs lower the incidence of HIV/AIDS among people who inject drugs by 80 percent. But the U.S. prohibits states from using federal drug-prevention money on sterile syringe access programs.

“Congress really needs to lift this ban because states should be allowed to use their prevention money on what works,” he stresses. “And lifting the ban wouldn't cost any money because states are already getting the money so it's just a question of whether or not they can use the money for something effective or not. “

While allowing the temporary exchange program in Scott County to continue through May 24, Gov. Mike Pence has said he is opposed to creating a permanent statewide needle exchange.

According to state leaders, more than 160 people are enrolled in the program and more than 7,000 clean needles have been distributed.