Nevada has come up with a novel way to combat rising HIV and heroin overdose cases: setting out vending machines that dispense clean needles.
A first in the Unites States, these syringe vending machines are not open to just anybody who wants them, however. They can only be accessed by customers of Trac-B Exchange, NBC News reports. This is a program run by the Las Vegas Hard Reduction Center.
The vending machines don’t take money. Instead, those who want to avail of the needles scan a card and punch in an ID number in order to vend the needles, which come in colorful, gift-wrapped boxes.
Chelsi Cheatom, program manager for Trac-B Exchange, says, “This is a harm reduction approach. People are already exchanging in these behaviors, and anytime someone’s engaging in a behavior that could cause them some potential health side effects, we want to encourage them to reduce their risk of harm.”
The Trac-B Exchange worked in partnership with the Southern Nevada Health District and the Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society (NARES) to install the vending machines. They will be located in three places by May, with each client limited to two kits weekly. Each kit contains syringes, a disposal box, safe sex items, and alcohol wipes.
Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, said,
Providing clean needles and supplies is a proven method for limiting disease transmission in a community.
Nevada is now the first state to ever launch such a program, but this model has already been in use in Europe, Australia and Puerto Rico. In Canada, a group aiming to prevent drug addiction installed crack pipe vending machines, which anyone could avail of for a quarter.
In the USA, harm reduction groups are required to monitor their clients. These groups offer clean drug materials to users in an attempt to lower transmission and sicknesses.