Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sterile Needle and Syringe Exchange Is Now Permanent in Delaware

On June 7, 2011, the Delaware Legislature passed a law to continue the needle exchange program without sunsetting.  

Senate Bill 13: An Act to Amend Title 29 of the Delaware Code Relating to Sterile Needle and Syringe Exchange makes the original pilot status of the program permanent. This Act directs the Director of the Division of Public Health to maintain a sterile needle and syringe program to help prevent the spread of AIDS and other diseases. Brandywine Counseling and Community Services will continue to operate the program, which offers HIV testing, health counseling, hepatitis C testing, and referrals to substance abuse treatment.

Every day, our staff sees the brutal impact HIV/AIDS has on men, women and children throughout Delaware. It seems to be so well hidden from the public eye. We are dedicated to preventing the spread of this disease.

Many of you are aware of the facts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over one million Americans are currently living with HIV. Twenty-five percent of those cases are attributed to risk factors related to injection drug use. Our needle exchange program prevents the spread of HIV among injection drug users, and therefore saves lives.

Our state’s needle exchange program is not simply a needle distribution program. Injecting drug users are required to return a used syringe in order to obtain a new, sterile needle. The program creates a unique opportunity for our Prevention and Treatment staff to interact with active drug users who might want our help but are not knocking on our front door. We are meeting them where they are, going directly to the people that need us. By joining our program, they are taking the first step to break the cycle of addiction.

The staff who work on our mobile van offer every client education, counseling, referrals, HIV, hepatitis C and pregnancy testing services. We identify folks in crisis, and link them with the appropriate mental health care.

The needle exchange program works. It saves lives!

During the first five pilot years, we were able to accomplish the following:
  • Incinerated over 68,000 potentially infectious syringes and removed them from the streets -- virtually eliminating the needle litter problem.
  • On the needle exchange program van, we conducted 2,581 Rapid HIV tests and 138 Hepatitis C tests. 18 clients tested positive for HIV and 27 tested positive for Hepatitis C. 100% of the positives were connected to care and case management.
  • Nearly 2,000 of those HIV tests were provided to community residents who access the van and are not enrolled in the program. Thus, we are reaching more than just injection drug users.
  • 163 people (of the 261 formal referrals made) were successfully admitted to drug related treatment, a 62% success rate. BCCS is uniquely qualified to operate the exchange program because we also provide a variety of behavioral health services. We are able to quickly and seamlessly link people to the treatment they need.

Resource: Includes information from

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