Washington Post reports District of Columbia saw a 70% drop in HIV infection among drug users “…after the District implemented a needle exchange program in 2008, according to a study…released Thursday.”
Advocates call on Congress to fund needle exchange programs nationwide following an HIV outbreak among I.V. drug users in Austin, Ind. that has infected over 175 people in town of 4,200 since December.
WASHINGTON (September 4, 2015) On the heels of a significant recent outbreak of HIV in Austin, Indiana driven by I.V. drug use that resulted in more than 175 new HIV infections, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) calls on Congress to fund needle exchange programs nationwide. The Washington Post reported yesterday that District of Columbia saw a 70% drop in HIV infection among drug users “…after the District implemented a needle exchange program in 2008, according to a study…released Thursday.”
“Needle exchange is often viewed by many elected officials as a third rail public health strategy or approach, but the success of the District of Columbia’s program—a remarkable 70% decrease in HIV infections among drug users—and the increase in IV drug use and HIV infection rates in rural places like Austin, Indiana and other forgotten small towns can no longer be denied. Congress needs to simply ‘get over it’ and fund needle exchange programs nationwide,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Funding such programs will not only save lives, but ultimately save taxpayer dollars, as the CDC says the lifetime costs of caring for a single person with HIV/AIDS is over $379,000. Our advocates will be making legislative visits on the Hill over the next several months urging legislators to fund needle exchange.”
Since December 2014, an outbreak of HIV among I.V. drug users in Austin, Ind. has infected over 175 people in town of just 4,200. Most, if not all of these infections were a result of intravenous drug use and the sharing of contaminated needles.
“When people are battling drug addiction, the last thing that needs to happen is for an HIV diagnosis to be added to their struggles,” said Garith Fulman, Midwest Director of Policy & Advocacy for AHF. “Some people may wrongly see needle exchange programs as a moral compromise in support of drug use, but the success of these programs in curbing the spread of HIV clearly show that giving patients access to clean needles is actually saving lives. In addition, nearly all of the people found to be HIV-infected in Austin are also co-infected with Hepatitis C, another serious infection that requires significant—and at $1,000 a pill, expensive—medical treatment.”
After learning of the situation in Austin, AHF deployed one of its free mobile testing vans to Indiana in mid-April. AHF has also been working closely with Indiana officials on administering an mobile HIV program and opening an HIV/AIDS treatment clinic with Dr. William Cooke, the City of Austin’s only physician. AHF will continue to partner with local and state health and government officials, including Austin Mayor Douglas Campbell and State Representative Terry Goodin, to address the escalating crisis and provide other needed HIV/AIDS services as they may arise.