The Southern Nevada Health District is setting up vending machines at three centers, to allow drug users to get "Clean Needles". Acquiring syringes or pipes can be a gruesome task for an addict, but having a machine for such objective ensures a certain degree of anonymity and allows the user to at least take some care of its health while using drugs. Residents who want access to the vending machines will need to be a part of Trac-B Exchange, a drug remediation group operating in Las Vegas. The program is funded through private donations through Trac-B Exchange.
The new syringe vending machines may help curb the spread of these diseases amid high rates of diseases transmission among needle users and rising number of people who use drugs.
"Providing clean needles and supplies is a proven method for limiting disease transmission in a community", said Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, in a statement Wednesday.
Prescription opioid deaths rose by 16.2 percent in Nevada between 2014 and 2015 and heroin deaths climbed 22.7 percent during the same period, claiming 82 lives.
Heroin-related overdose deaths also increased during the same period, almost quadrupling to 8,200 deaths in 2013.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported the effectiveness of needle exchange programs, and the North American Needle Exchange Network counts 228 syringe service programs in 35 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
In January 2016, Congress ended a ban on federal funding to syringe exchange programs.
In Clark County where Las Vegas is located, transmission rate of HIV among needle users is higher that the USA average at 9 percent.
This strategy is what's known as "harm reduction".
Although injecting drugs is a relatively low factor when it comes to HIV spread, up to 44 percent of young intravenous drug users carry the hepatitis C virus.
The harm-reduction approach suggests that dishing out strict punishments for drug use doesn't actually stop people from using drugs.
Needle exchange programs are generally considered a huge success. Too often we fail to see drug users as human beings, and they become defined by that and get called all these names like junkies and addicts.