It has been twelve years since Illinois lawmakers passed a measure allowing needle exchange programs in the state, by passing laws that allowed people to buy a limited number of syringes without a prescription. Since then there have been official needle exchange programs situated throughout Chicago, with official statistics reporting that the number of drug users infected with HIV has dropped considerably since the program was introduced. Heroin use is on the rise across the United States, and needle exchange programs have been hailed as a practical solution to deal with the problem of HIV rising too, something that obviously comes in conjunction with increased heroin use. However many individuals are still opposed to needle exchange programs in the city. Here are some of the pros and cons of needle exchange programmes:
For supporters of needle exchange programs, the pros of the scheme are fairly obvious: they help to reduce the risk of contaminated needles being used and shared, and when law enforcement officers are sticked by needles (either accidentally or with malicious intent) they also reduce the risk that those officers will be infected with HIV or any other illness. Another huge benefit of needle exchange programs is that many of these programs and facilities also offer counselling services, HIV testing services, and can even put their clients in touch with facilities and other service providers who can help them to seek rehabilitation and rid themselves of their drug problem. Many support groups and other local services are also hosted in conjunction with needle exchange programs, making them an integral gateway for support for the heroin using community.
For those opposed to needle exchange programs, there are many cons involved in the programs. These individuals argue that offering needles to drug users promotes drugs, and helps people to use drugs illegally. Another often mentioned argument in opposition to needle exchange programs is that many of these programs are funded using tax dollars; dollars that could arguably be better spent elsewhere. Finally the main con of needle exchange programs is that those living in close proximity to the centres where the programs are held feel unsafe because there are so many drug users in their neighborhoods.
To find out more about the pros and cons of needle exchange programs, you can read a full version of this article here.