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Essay on Needle-Exchange Programs and The Fight against HIV/AIDS

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This paper will be concerned with the issue of having needle-exchange programs (NEPs) in the United States, for the purpose of encouraging injection drug users (IDUs) to engage in safer practices. Specifically, this paper will address the question of whether or not such programs are a desirable policy for reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. This topic was chosen because it is evident that something needs to be done to stop the spread of AIDS, a problem that has reached epidemic proportions in nations around the world. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that approximately 25 percent of AIDS cases in the U.S. are found among IDUs (“Needle Exchanges” 112). HIV, the blood-borne virus that causes AIDS, is often spread among this population through the sharing of syringe needles. The virus can then be spread to the general population through sexual transmission. NEPs are regarded as a possible way to deal with this problem. The idea is that IDUs will learn “harm reduction” practices, even if they are unable to quit using intravenous drugs. However, NEPs are controversial because drugs are illegal and many people refuse to be tolerant toward drug addicts in any way. The opponents of NEPs believe that needles are a form of drug paraphernalia and should thus be banned, not openly exchanged.
Despite this point of view, there are several arguments in favor of NEPs. First, there is a great deal of empirical evidence showing that such programs are effective. The introduction of NEPs in Australia, for example, resulted in a dramatic decrease in HIV infections between 1991 and 2000 as well as a substantial decrease in national healthcare costs (Loff & Wodak 1403). An international study commissioned by the Australian Commonweal...


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...nal Inmates: Transmission, Burden, and an Appropriate Response.” American Journal of Public Health 96(6), June 2006, 974-978.

Kelley, Margaret S., Sheigla Murphy, and Howard Lune. “A Cultural Impact of Needle Exchange: The Role of Safer-Injection Mentors.” Contemporary Drug Problems 28(3), Fall 2001, 485-507.

Loff, Bebe, and Alex Wodak. “Needle Exchange Programmes Beneficial in Australia.” The Lancet 360, November 2, 2002, 1403.

“Most Exchange Participants Aren’t Sharing Needles.” Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly 13(13), March 26, 2001, 7.

“Needle Exchanges Do Not Boost Drug Use, Study Says.” AIDS Alert 18(9), September 2003, 112-114.

Nelson, Roxanne. “Syringe Exchange Programmes Lower HIV Risk.” The Lancet 360, November 16, 2002, 1570.

“Research Shows Needle Programs Cut HIV Rates.” AIDS Alert 15(7), July 2000, 76.




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