TAMPA, Fla. - In an effort to fight the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C among drug users, Hillsborough County is one step closer to launching a program for needle exchanges.
County commissioners will soon hear a report advising whether a needle exchange program would work in the county. The debate is disease prevention versus enabling drug use -- and commissioners are set to see if a similar trial-run has effectively worked in Miami.
Needle exchanges allow drug users to exchange used needles for new needles in an effort to reduce transmission of blood-borne infections, such has HIV and Hepatitis C.
The proposed pilot program in Tampa Bay would be more than the needle exchange -- it would provide on-site first aid, access to NARCAN, a drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose, and mental health counseling.
In May 2019, county leaders asked two agencies to explore a program similar to one that has been operating on a trial basis in Miami. Those agencies found that the program works.
Public health experts are expected to tell commissioners that a needle exchange program reduces HIV risk, does not increase drug use and does not increase crime. The program is also endorsed by the Center for Disease Control, along with other government agencies.
Commissioners will hear the report during Wednesday’s meeting, before deciding the next step.