Should Drug Addicts Be Given Clean Needles?

BY News Desk  August 16, 2013 at 11:27 AM EDT

Sharing dirty needles is such an effective way of transmitting the virus that one out of 10 new infections worldwide can be attributed to IV drug use. Of the 16 million injecting drug users in the world, 3 million of them are living with HIV.

That’s why many public health officials say it’s so important for clean needles to be available every time an injection occurs — even if governments or nonprofits need to take those needles directly into the drug dens where addicts are shooting up. PBS NewsHour’s health reporter/producer Jason Kane recently profiled one such program in Tanzania in which a nurse and a drug dealer work together to combat infection.

It’s a highly controversial idea. Most public health officials say that delivering these so-called “harm reduction” services directly to the populations that need them most will be key to controlling some of the world’s deadliest diseases in the long-run. Opponents, including former President George W. Bush, say it encourages drug use in society while fueling the cycle of addiction for current users.

We’re asking: How do you feel about needle exchanges and other harm reduction programs? Do you think they encourage drug use? Or are they necessary to stop the spread of HIV? Have you had any experience with harm-reduction programs in your community?

Please share your answers below or fill out this Public Insight Network form.