Las Vegas to fight HIV with vending machines for needles

Barsaba Taglieri
Aprile 19, 2017

Needle and syringe possession was illegal in Nevada up until 2013, when the state Legislature repealed the law.

Las Vegas will be the first place in the US with vending machines that dispense clean needles for drug users.

Jenny Gratzke, disease investigator and intervention specialist with the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were an estimated 5,800 injection drug users in Clark County, a number she believed was low. Participants in the Trac-B Exchange will be able to type a special access code into the machines to receive a clean syringe, reports Health Central.

There's is a risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis C through the use of crack pipes, as addicts oftentimes break their lips on the pipe, which is then shared for another person to use.

"Syringe vending machines have been utilized as an infectious disease intervention with [people who inject drugs] in Europe and Australia (among others) for over a decade", Trac-B officials stated.

In May, Nevada will become the first US state to offer clean needle exchanges through no-charge, automated vending machines, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported this week.

But they're not just handing them out like candy.

The idea behind the vending machines is that they would encourage drug users to use clean syringes.

Needle exchange programs have been used successfully throughout the world, with several nations adopting vending machine technology into their mix to curb the spread of blood-borne pathogens.

The other two machines are located at Aid for AIDS Nevada (AFAN) and the Community Counseling Center, NEWS 3 reported.

"This is a harm reduction approach", said Chelsi Cheatom, program manager for Trac-B Exchange, in an interview with NBC Las Vegas affiliate KSNV. The special vending machines will distribute cardboard boxes containing clean syringes and disposal containers for used needles. An additional sheet will be provided to the users wherein they can find their treatment.

The company worked in collaboration with the Southern Nevada Health District and the Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society to install the new machines, which will be available at three different locations by the end of May.

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