A recent study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai shows there is limited accessibility to harm-reduction services and programs in areas that have higher rates of intravenous drug use and HIV infections.
These typically suburban and rural areas are known for having higher rates of addiction to heroin and other opioids, making these areas the ones that need harm-reduction services and programs the most.
Increases in drug infection within the U.S. have been detected in several studies during the last 10 years. Typically, people inject their heroin or opioids. Syringe service programs (SSPs) help people to exchange their old, used syringes and needles for new, sterile ones. This decreases the risk of people sharing their syringes and needles, which would cause HIV, hepatitis C, and similar infections. In addition, SSPs provide naloxone, a medication that counteracts overdoses of opiates.
"Syringe service programs have been very effective in reducing HIV transmission in the U.S. and throughout the world," Don Des Jarlais, professor of Psychiatry and Preventive Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said. "Our data show that rural and suburban SSPs face some special challenges in recruiting clients, funding, and staffing, but that these programs can provide the needed services when they are implemented. The biggest problem is simply that we do not have enough of them in rural and suburban areas. State and local governments can save lives by extending these programs."