Wednesday, February 09, 2011

New Mexico Department of Health reduces disease through needle exchange program

The New Mexico Department of Health's needle exchange program has been tasked with reducing new cases of AIDS in New Mexico since 1998. The New Mexico Harm Reduction Act was passed in 1997 to reduce the spread of blood borne diseases that are transmitted by the reuse of needles and/or syringes. In addition to promoting public health by reducing the number of cases of deadly disease, such as HIV and hepatitis C, the program is keeping communities safer by minimizing the number of improperly discarded syringes found in parks and playgrounds. As part of its harm reduction and needle exchange services the Department of Health also offers hepatitis screening, hepatitis A and B vaccinations, overdose prevention training, health promotion and disease prevention education, primary medical care and drug treatment referrals.

The purpose of the program according to Dave Daniels, an HIV educator in Las Cruces, New Mexico is 'first is to get possible infected needles out of the community and the second is to develop trust with the participants so when they are ready to start fighting the addiction, they have a person to turn to whom they trust.'

New Mexico has also had extensive support from law enforcement. A powerpoint presentation by Sonny Leeper, former Captain of the Albuquerque Police Department, explains the New Mexico Harm Reduction Act of 1997 and explains how needle exchange helps protect police officers from the risk of needlestick injury.

Read more about needle exchange in New Mexico here.

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