Drug users in Indiana seem to be more persuaded to exchange their used needles for new ones following the HIV outbreak that took place in the said state earlier this year. According to Reuters, this is evident in drug users such as Tara Burton, 25, who is now making weekly visits to a one-story clinic in Scott County, Indiana to turn over her used needles, which she uses to shoot up the prescription painkiller Opana through her arm.
Although the needle exchange program is being implemented across 34 states, the practice remains controversial especially to a number of conservatives. Kentucky State Representative Stan Lee, who is also a Republican, believes that the said exchange simply encourages drug use and even likened it to giving out condoms in schools.
Nonetheless, needle exchange is gaining better acceptance, especially in the state of Indiana where an outbreak of HIV was confirmed in February this year. The Indiana State Department of Health said that the outbreak spread throughout southeastern Indiana. Twenty-six cases were confirmed at that time along with four “preliminary HIV positive cases” since mid-December.
Moreover, the department also found that a good number of HIV cases were linked to injection drug abuse of the painkiller Opana. It is said to be more potent, per milligram, than Oxycontin.
Meanwhile last June, State health official had announced that the number of HIV cases in Southeastern Indiana had already gone up to 169 cases, including three that are preliminary positive. Moreover, the number of individuals taking part in the needle exchange in the Scott County Needle Exchange Program was at 185, with as much as 25,187 needles brought in from the said exchange program and the community. As of June 10, state officials have provided as much as 25,739 needles.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are about 350,000 regular injection drug users in America and as much as 950,000 U.S. residents are infected with HIV/AIDS. There are currently 185 needle exchange programs running nationwide.