Hepatitis and HIV are a problem in bustling cities such as Las Vegas. As a result, states are seeking solutions and curb and treat such ailments. Las Vegas has taken the frontline in the battle against such diseases by preparing to be the first city in the nation with vending machines dispensing clean needles.
The clean needles will be used to help combat the spread of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The move will also be used in leading some drug users into treatment. The pilot program will kick off in May, three machines will be made available for users. The pilot program is a coordinated effort between Trac-B Exchange, the Southern Nevada Health District and the Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society. The idea is to discourage users from sharing of needles.
Rick Reich who is the director of Trac-B Exchange program said that to participate in the vending machine program, users would have to fill out a form for the sponsoring groups and obtain an eight-digit identification number to ensure confidentiality and track their use.
The kit will have sterile syringes and needles along with a compartment for used needles that can be disposed of safely at the machines. The vending machine, which cost $15,000 will be located inside the three facilities and would be accessed only during the hours the buildings are open for business.
The kit goes for under $10. However, they’ll be dispensed for free. Reich said that one of the vending machines will be placed inside the Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada. This will allow some drug abusers to interact with trained counselors if they decided they wanted to get help.
The executive director of the counseling center, Patrick Bozarth said that his staff had been undergoing training in anticipation of reaching drug abusers who may use the vending machine and learn about treatment options
The Needle exchange programs have been deployed successfully in many parts of the world. Several nations have adopted vending machine technology to curb the spread of blood-borne pathogens.
The effectiveness of the needle exchange programs has been reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which pointed out that the North American Needle Exchange Network counts 228 syringe service programs in 35 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
A study conducted by the CDC on the effects of New York’s exchange program on the prevalence of hepatitis C infection between 1990 and 2001, revealed that the needle exchange program reduced the disease’s prevalence from 80% to 59% among intravenous drug users.