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Needle Exchange Cuts HIV Transmission

Needle Exchange Cuts HIV Transmission

Research has shown that needle exchange programs can effectively lower the risk of HIV transmission among injection drug users. In 1988, Congress passed legislation prohibiting the use of federal funding for any activities associated with needle exchange. While states and localities were able to use their own revenue to fund such programs, in 1998, the United States Congress passed legislation prohibiting the District of Columbia from using its municipal revenue to fund these programs. Until Congress lifted the ban in 2007, these policies limited access to needle exchange in the city.   A Big Impact “Following the policy change in Washington, DC, it was important to determine whether or not it was going to make a difference,” says Monica S. Ruiz, PhD, MPH. “Clinicians need to know the impact of this policy change on people’s ability to access services.” For a study published in AIDS and Behavior, Dr. Ruiz and colleagues used existing surveillance data from the Department of Health in Washington, DC from September 1996 through December 2011 to project the impact of needle exchange access on the number of new HIV cases associated with injection drug use (IDU). “We used mathematical modeling to estimate the number of infections there would have been without the policy change in order to see if there was a significant difference between that and the number of cases that actually occurred,” Dr. Ruiz explains. “Interrupted time series analyses were used to control for other factors, such as HIV-focused educational campaigns.” The investigators estimated that about 120 infections were averted as a result of the policy change. In the 2 years following the...
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