WEKU 88.9 (09.08.2013)
A study conducted by Jennifer Havens, a University of Kentucky epidemiologist and associate professor in behavioral science, revealed that close to two-thirds of 500 Appalachia injection drug users were infected with hepatitis. To address the epidemic among injection drug users, Havens urged Kentucky lawmakers to reconsider a law that prohibited syringe possession without a prescription and called for federal funding for needle-exchange programs, also known as “syringe service programs.”
Needle-exchange programs originated approximately 30 years ago as a measure aimed to prevent HIV transmission among needle-sharing drug users. Public health distribution of sterile needles reduced the number of HIV infections and reduced the public health threat, but the programs remained controversial.
Warren believed that syringe service programs would provide a safer source of syringes for drug users who already were injecting, but would not encourage people to start injecting drugs. Syringe exchange programs also brought drug users into treatment programs, according to Warren. Without federal funding, Warren noted that many eastern Kentucky communities would lack resources for syringe service programs.