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New York Needle Exchanges Proving Highly Successful in Reducing Needle Sharing


March 1993

Results from a number of legally sanctioned needle exchange programs in New York City are showing significant decrease in needle sharing among addicts with no increase in drug use (Mireya Navarro, "New York Needle Exchanges Called Surprisingly Effective," The New York Times, A1, 2/18/93).

The positive results come after the establishment of four new trial programs between July and November 1992. The programs were funded by a combination of public and private funds. The private funds came from the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR), and the public monies from the New York State Department of Health. New York Mayor David Dinkins reversed an early decision to cancel needle exchange programs

The programs have succeeded in enrolling 5,000 of the city's estimated 200,000 intravenous drug-users, half of whom are infected with H.I.V., the AIDS virus. Chief program evaluator Donald Des Jarlais, Ph.D., director of research for the Beth Israel Medical Center Chemical Dependency Institute, found no evidence that the program either attracted new addicts or increased drug use among existing addicts. But he found that needle sharing dropped dramatically. After participating in the program, only 20 percent said they still borrowed needles from others, compared to 30 percent prior to the program. The percentage renting or buying used needles dropped even more sharply, from 25 percent before the program to only 10 percent afterwards.

Although some of the programs had operated illegally for several years, they now handle five times more clients than they did when illegal. About 13,000 needle exchanges occur weekly.