Needle exchanges have been commonplace across the country for many years. It wasn’t until 2019 that the Georgia Senate finally legalized needle exchanges in Georgia. Ever since then, there has been an increasing number of needle exchanges opening across the state. Below we will take a look at what a needle exchange actually is, what a needle exchange means for the community it is located in, and the impact these programs have had since their introduction just a few years ago.
What Is A Needle Exchange?
Needle exchanges are community programs that allow IV drug users to trade in used, dirty needles for clean, sterile needles. The goal of these programs is to reduce the spread of diseases, particularly HIV and Hepatitis C. While the main goal is to reduce the spread of disease, some programs also provide additional paraphernalia such as naloxone, fentanyl test strips, and condoms. This can reduce other risks such as unintentional overdose and overdose deaths.
These organizations often develop in poor areas that are underserved by the traditional healthcare system. The reason for this is that people struggling with poverty and homelessness can act as unwitting vectors for disease, creating a reservoir in their communities. By trying to reduce the spread of disease among underserved populations, needle exchanges aim to slow or stop the spread of disease and create a healthier community.
Are Needle Exchanges Effective?
Yes, needle exchanges can be effective at reducing the spread of disease. Studies have shown that needle exchange programs are effective at reducing the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. In Georgia, this can be particularly effective at reducing disease transmission. According to the Georgia DPH, around 34% of injection drug users near Atlanta share needles. Another 80% share other injection paraphernalia which may also contribute to the spread of disease.
As for the medical communities’ stance on whether or not needle exchanges are effective, The American Medical Association “…encourages all communities to establish needle exchange programs and physicians to refer their patients to such programs.”
Needle Exchanges In Georgia
There are currently only 3 major needle exchanges in Georgia and most of them are in and around Atlanta. Details for each program include:
Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition
1231 Joseph E. Boone Boulevard NW, Atlanta, GA 30314
404-817-9994 | Visit Website
The AHRC provides a range of harm reduction services all across Atlanta. They provide a needle exchange as well as free testing for HIV, Hepatitis C, and testing for a variety of sexually transmitted diseases. They also provide housing assistance programs and dispense naloxone kits for free at different sites across the city.
Area Served: Metro Atlanta
Programs: Needle Exchange, Naloxone Kits, Free Disease Testing, Assisted Re-Housing, MAT, Mothers on the Move, Health Services
Payment Options: Free
Aniz Inc provides a variety of harm reduction services along with physical and behavioral health support. They provide a needle exchange as well as disease testing and a range of support groups for people in recovery and people living with HIV/AIDS. They also provide sexual health and safe-sex groups.
Area Served: Atlanta
Programs: Needle Exchange, HIV & Hepatitis C Testing, HIV Support Groups, Addiction Recovery Groups
Payment Options: Free
Access Point of Georgia currently meets in front of Diva’s Who Win on Wednesdays and Saturdays, although check their site for updated hours, days, and schedules. They provide a needle exchange program as well as certified peer specialists for recovery support and help. They can also provide referrals to treatment including detox and other recovery programs.
Area Served: Athens, Georgia
Programs: Needle Exchange, Naloxone, Fentanyl Test Strips, Peer Support, Treatment Referrals
Payment Options: Free
How Can Needle Exchanges Help Me?
Needle exchanges have been shown to improve community health by reducing the spread of disease. Sharing needles is a very common practice among IV drug users. This is most often due to the cost and lack of access to clean syringes. Having easy and cheap (or free) access to needles can remove this barrier, providing clean needles to people who would otherwise share them.
Additionally, needle exchange programs often provide a variety of other services. These include disease testing, healthcare services, safe-sex products, naloxone kits, fentanyl testing strips, and a variety of other support services. These programs may also provide referrals to substance abuse and mental health treatment providers as well as peer support services from others in recovery.