But clean needle exchanges could help.
Last month Congressional Republicans rallied behind an effort to lift a decades-old ban against federal funding for syringe exchange programs.
Some people were surprised when West Virginia became one of the first Southern states to operate an above-ground syringe exchange program. But for Jim Johnson, now retired Chief of Police for Huntington, West Virginia, syringe exchange was a common sense solution to an increasingly complex problem.
The good news is that for decades, both injection drug users and doctors have been advocating for harm reduction, a rational and proven way to reduce infections. The idea is simple: lower the risks associated with using drugs.
It's important for communities to understand that you can't just open a syringe exchange and expect people to come; you have to build up trust. The most successful programs protect confidentiality by avoiding the collection of names or other identifying information.
In 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, we knew that new opportunities were emerging for drug users who were disconnected from the traditional healthcare system.
JM: I'm not happy that we are not covering methadone under Medicaid. Methadone is proven to stabilize somebody at high risk
A great way to raise awareness about the need for syringe access and biohazard collection is to organize clean-up events to pick up used syringes from public areas. In addition to removing hazardous materials from public spaces, where they could harm children and the public, syringe clean-up events are an opportunity to engage law enforcement on the issue of syringe access.
Advocates for drug policy reform are doing some admirable work at the state level to improve the health and dignity of people who use drugs. But things are rolling at the federal level too. The Harm Reduction Coalition discussed the issues they are working on.
Instead of creating laws that sound good but in reality cause more harm, we should encourage laws that provide incentives for people to do the right thing. Want drug users to clean up their used syringes? Protect them from charges if the syringes are stored in a safe container.
The following is a speech given by Associate Professor Mary Beth Levin, Georgetown University School of Medicine at the conference
There is a new war between the states -- in the South. This is not, as some of my Southern friends call it, a "war of Northern aggression." This war is between the states and the federal government.
In states that ban syringe possession, some groups run "underground" needle exchanges, Castillo said. Some programs operate
JS: There is a certain theology of harm reduction that all followers of Christ are called to understand. The Old Testament
It's hard to argue cost-savings and disease reduction to a moralistic audience, and in many parts of the country, it's no use even trying. For the time being, some states might want to consider alternative means to syringe access and disease reduction