A major new announcement in the fight against deadly diseases is earning praise from medical professionals, but it has a lot of people uneasy.
Health officials in the United States, and specifically the state of Nevada, have just rolled out a remarkable new initiative that is sure to draw both praise and criticism as the state seeks to combat deadly diseases like HIV and hepatitis. They are introducing vending machines that dispense free needles and are meant to be used by drug addicts.
The vending machines will be located in southern Nevada and will look like regular vending machines, except you don’t have to pay and you get a kit of needles instead of snacks. With this program, someone looking to shoot up heroin or some other drug would only need to press a button to get access to clean needles. The kit has a box of 10 syringes, a rubber tourniquet, alcohol swabs, a container for disposing needles, bandaids, and information on where to find treatment.
Medical professionals say it’s a great idea and an effective method for stopping the spread of disease, as tainted needles are a frequent culprit. However, critics argue that such needle exchange programs encourage people to do drugs when they should be focused on quitting.
“Needle exchange programs are model public health programs. It starts with providing a clean needle and syringe to one person,” said Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, in a statement. “However, we know one in 10 HIV diagnoses occur in people who inject drugs. Providing clean needles and supplies is a proven method for limiting disease transmission in a community. In addition to providing supplies to individual clients, the goal of our program is to improve the health and well-being of people affected by drug use by increasing their access to health care, providing them with education, and reducing the risk of harm to others in our community.”