February 11, 2013
It’s a gritty political issue most relevant to some of New Jersey’s grittiest neighborhoods: providing clean syringes to drug users. Proponents say that it is the most effective way to reach drug users and stop the spread of infectious disease. Critics say that its byproduct is the tacit endorsement of illegal and dangerous drug use.
But no matter the politics – and there are strong, well-reasoned arguments on both sides – the facts, according to New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd, point to the program’s success in achieving its objectives.
According to a report from Commissioner O’Dowd’s office and coverage in the Star-Ledger, “nearly 10,000 drug users [received] clean syringes from needle exchange programs in five New Jersey cities [Atlantic City, Camden, Newark, Paterson, and Jersey City] from 2007 to 2011.”
Specifically, 295,186 clean needles were distributed and 160,617 used needles collected.
Commissioner O’Dowd says these exchanges have stemmed the spread of HIV and hepatitis and also brought treatment to over 2,000 drug users. Further, since 2010, nearly 60 pregnant drug users have received prenatal treatment as part of the program.
The Community Foundation of New Jersey (CFNJ) is an active partner in stemming the spread of infectious disease, most notably through its management with the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation of the NJ AIDS Partnership Fund. This collaboration among the private and public sectors, as well as service providers, families, and community leaders, supports effective intervention programs – including needle exchanges, develops local advocacy infrastructure, and promotes community innovation.