Syringe Policy

Syringe Access Bill Signed by Governor (October 2011)


Sharing needles results in thousands of HIV and hepatitis C infections in California every year.

There is no longer any doubt that needle exchange programs are an effective part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy. Each year, it is estimated that 8,000 Californians are infected with HIV. Injection drug use is the second leading cause of those infections, causing nearly half of all new HIV infections. Among children, as much as 75% of new HIV infections are the result of injection drug use by a parent. Among women, three out of four AIDS cases are linked to injection drug use. In addition, Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common chronic blood borne infection with over 500,000 Californians estimated to be infected. HCV can lead to advanced liver disease, liver failure, liver cancer and death. Injecting drug use currently accounts for most of HCV
transmission.

Needle exchange programs can be an effective part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce the incidence of HIV and HCV.

In March 1997, the National Institutes of Health published the Consensus Development Statement on Interventions to Prevent HIV Risk Behaviors. That report concluded that needle exchange programs "show a reduction in risk behaviors as high as 80 percent in injecting drug users, with estimates of a 30 percent or greater reduction of HIV." The panel also concluded that the preponderance of evidence shows either a decrease in injection drug use among participants or no changes in their current levels of drug use.

Needle exchange programs do NOT increase drug use and can assist users in halting their drug use.

An October 1997, study of needle exchange programs in Baltimore, Md., indicated that needle exchange programs that are closely linked to or integrated with drug treatment programs have high levels of retention in drug treatment. A 1998 NIH Consensus Conference report on the effectiveness of treatment for heroin addiction found that drug treatment programs can assist heroin users in halting their drug use.

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