Research shows fewer people are sharing needles thanks to exchan - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Research shows fewer people are sharing needles thanks to exchange program

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AUSTIN, Ind. (WDRB) - It was launched to stop the spread of HIV in southern Indiana and research shows Indiana's first needle exchange program is working. 

"We knew that needles were hard to come by," said Scott County Public Health Nurse Brittany Combs, "That's why the HIV spread so quickly."

In the midst of an epidemic, health officials started the program in August to keep drug addicts from sharing needles and spreading the virus. 

"We still have a lot clients that come back weekly and we're getting new clients all the time," Combs told WDRB News. 

Data crunched by CDC researcher Monita Patel shows the needle exchange has worked. 

She looked at information from 100 clients over the first two months. 

According to her report, 34 admitted to sharing needles during their first visit, but during the last visit, only 5 people said they still did.

That's an 85 percent decrease.

People are also re-using syringes less. 

Combs says she believes the needle exchange program has saved lives.

"Everyday, they tell us, 'I'm glad that I don't have to share anymore,'" she said. 

Local health officials say about 250 people have taken part in the program and thousands of needles have been exchanged, but they say another important part of the effort is giving people access to substance abuse treatment. 

"Just a couple of weeks ago, I had three different grown men practically break down in my arms. They were at their wits end," said Scott Co. Health Department Preparedness Coordinator Patti Hall. 

"We want to help people in the needle exchange as much as possible, but we really don't want anybody in the needle exchange program," Combs added. "We want them all to quit and that's our ultimate goal is to help them get to that stage." 

The needle exchange will run through the end of May. If health officials want to continue after that, they'll have to get state approval again.

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