protect residents' health and safety, the City of Los Angeles sponsors
syringe exchange programs (SEPs). SEPs allow injection drug users
to trade used needles, which are a major source of HIV infection,
for clean needles. Like New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and
other large cities worldwide, Los Angeles has recognized the important
role syringe exchange plays in preventing the spread of HIV and
linking injection drug users with drug treatment programs, health
care and other assistance.
About Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs) in Los Angeles
- Nearly 12,000 people are served every year by SEPs funded by the City of Los Angeles.
- This year City-sponsored SEPs will remove approximately 1.4 million used, potentially lethal syringes from the streets of Los Angeles.
- By making clean syringes easily available, the City's SEPs help injection drug users to avoid questionable syringe sources used in the past. Approximately 36% of first-time SEP users in City-sponsored SEPs report buying their previous syringes on the street or getting them from dealers. Another 41% reported their previous syringe sources as friends, boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses.
- SEPs funded by the City of Los Angeles also provide other items to enhance safety and health, such as condoms, antibiotic ointment, sterile water, food and food vouchers, wound care kits and supplies, and harm reduction information.
- SEPs provide important linkages to other services. During FY 2005-06, SEPs sponsored by the City of Los Angeles:
- Conducted 2729 HIV and Hepatitis C testing, counseling, education and referral sessions.
- Handled 1616 substance use counseling sessions and referrals to drug treatment programs.
Facts About Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs)
in Reducing HIV Risk
- In 1993, Los Angeles County was part of a CDC-sponsored study which found that among Los Angeles County injection drug users (IDUs), having used a sterile syringe at last injection was significantly associated with SEP use.
- A study of HIV risk behavior among Los Angeles IDUs between 1987 and 1995 showed a high prevalence of syringe sharing until 1994, followed by a sharp decrease in 1995. This change was concurrent with the City's change in SEP policy, which expanded access to SEPs by offering them additional legal protections and funding. The new policy resulted in more syringe exchange sites, more consistent exchange hours, and a dramatic increase in the percentage of IDUs reporting usage of SEPs, from 1-2% in 1992-93 to 30% in 1995.
- In 1997, Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services, reported to Congress that a review of scientific evidence indicated that syringe exchange programs "can be an effective component of a comprehensive strategy to prevent HIV and other blood borne infections diseases..."
- A 1997 report from the National Institutes of Health concluded that syringe exchange programs"show a reduction in risk behaviors as high as 80 percent in injecting drug users, with estimates of a 30 percent or greater reduction in HIV."
Exchange Programs Do Not Increase Drug Use
- A 1997 National Institutes of Health report states that the preponderance of evidence shows that levels of injection drug use either decrease or remain the same among IDUs who participate in SEPs.
- A study of the effects of a San Francisco SEP over a five-year period concluded that the SEP did not result in increased drug use among current IDUs or recruitment of new or younger injection drug users. In fact, between 1986 and 1992, injection frequency among IDUs in the community decreased from 1.9 injections per day to .7 injections per day, the mean age of users increased from 36 to 42 years, and the percentage of new initiates into injection drug use decreased from 3% to 1%.
- A Johns Hopkins survey of 1000 high school students' attitudes found no relationship between knowledge of syringe exchange programs and inclination to use drugs.
- A study of syringe exchange programs in Baltimore indicated that SEPs that are closely linked to drug treatment programs have high levels of retention in drug treatment.
Do Not Increase Crime or Bring Additional Drug Users to Neighborhoods
- There is no evidence that SEPs increase neighborhood crime rates. A study in Baltimore showed changes in crime levels and patterns were no different in areas with syringe exchange than in other parts of the city. The study also noted no significant difference in crime rates in neighborhoods before and after the introduction of syringe exchange in the area.
- In Baltimore, data revealed that 85% of SEP clients resided in the same zip code as the exchange.
Exchange Takes Contaminated Syringes Off The Street
- By making used syringes a valuable exchange commodity, SEPs take dangerous, contaminated syringes off the street and prevent them from being discarded in parks, beaches or other public areas. In the 2005-06 fiscal year, SEPs sponsored by the City of Los Angeles removed nearly 1.2 million used, potentially lethal syringes from the streets.
- Evaluations in other cities also show decreasing levels of discarded syringes after the arrival of SEPs. For instance, after the opening of a Portland SEP, discarded syringes in the area decreased by nearly two-thirds.
Effectiveness of Syringe Exchange
- The City spends about $42 per client per year to run its syringe exchange program, but one syringe-infected AIDS patient would require upwards of $25,200 per year in public health expenditures.
DRUG ABUSE PROGRAM (AADAP)
888-554-5459 (toll free)
818-342-5897 ext. 2157
800-996-1051 (toll free)