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Hillsborough County looking to start sterile needle, syringe exchange program

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Posted at 5:07 AM, Jan 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-07 10:22:38-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County is looking to start a needle exchange program to prevent the transmission of HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis or other blood-borne diseases among intravenous drug users.

If approved, the program would offer the free exchange of clean, unused needles and hypodermic syringes for used needles and hypodermic syringes.

The idea is to meet people where they are, using the Tampa Bay Street Medicine Mobile Van. The van would provide clean needles, alcohol swabs, condoms and the life-saving medication Narcan to Hillsborough & 22nd, Downtown, Suitcase City, which is near USF.

Multiple physicians would be overseeing the program. USF and Tampa General Hospital would sponsor it.

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Hillsborough County reports that scientific consensus has shown needle exchange programs are effective at reducing HIV risk, do not increase intravenous drug use, do not increase crime and are cost effective.

USF would also track outcomes of what they give out to monitor the program's community impact.

The implementation of a sterile needle and syringe exchange program would be an approved action under the Opioid Action Plan and Milestones for Hillsborough County. Currently, Miami is the only place in Florida with a needle exchange program.

Needle Exchange Programs Across the Country

Finally, as part of this implementation of a sterile needle and exchange program the County is prohibited from providing funding to support this program per state law.

Hillsborough County Commissioners are expected to hear this item on January 8. Needle exchange programs were legalized statewide in Florida in 2019.