USA: Harm reduction programmes lacking in rural and suburban areas

16 December 2015
Needle stuck into a tree

Rural and suburban areas of the United States of America are lacking the harm reduction services needed to support increasing numbers of people who inject drugs (PWID), leaving them at higher risk of HIV and hepatitis C, according to researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The report, published online by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention on 10 December, found that 69% of needle and syringe service programmes (NSPs) were in urban areas. This leaves only 20% in rural areas and 9% in suburban locations where rates of HIV infection and heroin addiction are on the rise.

NSPs allow PWID to exchange used needles and syringes for new, sterile needles and syringes. Many NSPs also distribute a mediation called naloxone, which is proven to reverse opiate overdoses.

Don Des Jarlais, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and lead author of the study, said that NSPs “have been very effective in reducing HIV transmission in the USA and throughout the world.”

"Our data show that rural and suburban syringe service programmes 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."

Photo credit:
Thomas Marthinsen/ CC-BY