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The Needle Exchange Program

The needle exchange program (N. E. P. ) is the practice of exchanging used syringes for new and sterile ones among injecting drug users. Given the clash of philosophical and political interests regarding the needle exchange program, coupled with the prevailing Ethics in the medical field, the said program has managed to encompass an ever raging debate in the public arena and hence courting controversy. However, as a professional in the medical field, the very fact that twenty five percent of new and reported H.

I. V. /A. I. D. S infections in the U. S. can be directly attributed to injecting drug use by an estimated 2. 4 million users, my position is definitely in the affirmative. It does not require professionalism to deduce that the spread of H. I. V. /A. I. D. S and hepatitis C among such a large number of people puts an even larger number of innocent wives and children a risk of the infection. Therefore anything that can be done to limit the spread of these diseases among drug abusers should be encouraged.

My core belief in this is compounded by the common reality that drug abuse can not be totally eradicated, and that since the inception of the program in Europe in 1983, no conclusive evidence that the program encourages drug abuse has been tabled (Wingood & Di Clemente, 2000). The prevailing moral philosophical beliefs has culminated in the denial of government funding for the program,despite,the fact that it takes not more than the legal authority bestowed on the U. S.

Health and Human services secretariat to declare its effectiveness and lobby for its funding. The provision of sterile needles in exchange for used ones encourages hygiene in drug abuse, a practice that neither the government nor society can eradicate totally. The overall effect of these provisions is the reduction in high risk behavior in so far as injecting drug abuse is concerned. The resultant social benefit therefore, is not only the obvious reduction in health-care cost, but also the provision of a safe disposal mechanism for used needles in the society.

This has resulted in a reduction in HIV/AIDS infection rates among injecting drug users dramatically, with documented figures stating up to a seventy four percent decline. Besides the social benefits the program also offers other important medical services to drug users. These services include the provision of free Hepatitis C and HIV testing, provision of sterile water and also bleach water, needle containers and also alcohol swabs to this group of people.

These services are offered at no extra cost. Moreover, free male and female condoms are also administered in the course of needle exchange Indirect influence on the social network in the proximity of needle exchange beneficiaries is realized through the provision of a safe environment as far as sexual contact and other forms of contact involving exchange of body fluids are concerned.

Free counseling services are also offered, and this goes a long way in creating awareness about the modes of transmission of communicable diseases and not necessarily the ones contracted through needle sharing. It goes without saying that the awareness this practice creates is very beneficial, and the arena for achieving this awareness can not be recreated through any other conventional channel employed by the government or any other organ in relaying information to the public about responsible behavior regarding the spread of communicable diseases.

Several polls regarding needle exchange programs have been conducted in recent years, and about eight federally funded reports cementing the findings of these polls have been compiled . The underlying point in all these reports is that the programs do not encourage drug abuse, but rather results in an increase in spread of HIV/AIDS. A case in point is the reported reduction in the spread of HIV/AIDS from five percent in 1989 to one percent in 1996 in the Hawaii needle exchange program.

It should be clearly stated and emphasized that needle exchange programs are not needle distribution programs, and that in this program, a number of used needles are required to be strictly exchanged with a similar number of fresh needles, therefore upholding its main purpose, which is encouraging hygiene in inject able drug abuse, and not in fact encouraging drug abuse in itself (Grinstead & Faigeles, 2000).

References Grinstead, B, & Faigeles, B. (2000). AIDS Education and Prevention. New York: Guilford Publications. Wingood, R. & Di Clemente P. (2000). Health Education & Behavior. Retrieved February 27, 2009, from http. heb. sagepub. com.

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