Argument: HIV transmission has increased despite needle exchanges

Issue Report: Needle exchanges


David Lewis. “Should needle exchange be publicly funded?”. PBS: “When first introduced in Amsterdam in 1984, and shortly thereafter at various sites in Europe and the United States, needle exchange programs were viewed as an emergency response to both the HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C epidemics. Although promoters claim that needle exchange programs do not encourage drug use, there has been a major increase in heroin use since needle exchange programs have become widespread. Heroin use by American teens has doubled in the past 5 years. Dr. Lucy Sullivan of the Australian Centre for Independent Studies states that hepatitis prevalence among intravenous drug users is 65%, suggesting that free needles are not having their intended effect of preventing exchange of body fluids. Sullivan also states that ‘There is no sign of an impact on the rate of decline (of HIV incidence rates) with the introduction of needle distribution in 1992.’ (Sullivan, 1997). […] Even more disturbing is a recent Vancouver study showing significant increases in HIV among intravenous drug users despite Vancouver having the largest needle exchange program in North America. HIV prevalence among intravenous drug users has risen from 1-2% in 1988 to a current rate of 23% (Strathdee, 1997). In a Montreal study, intravenous drug users participating in the needle exchange program were twice as likely to become infected with HIV as those who did not participate (Bruneau J et al, 1995).”