Investigators with the Yale University School of Organization and Management and the City of New Haven, Department of Health, worked to expand and evaluate a model needle exchange program in New Haven.
Needle exchange programs seek to reduce the spread of HIV via infected needles by providing intravenous (IV) drug users with clean syringes. In 1990, New Haven's local government mandated a demonstration needle exchange program along with an independent program evaluation.
During the RWJF-funded period, the needle exchange program saw approximately 800 clients quarterly, and a total of more than 2,300 individuals.
By the end of the funded period, the needle exchange program assisted over 1,000 clients to enter drug treatment programs.
The investigators estimated that the needle exchange program reduced the risk of HIV transmission among program participants by one third.
There was no evidence of an increase in drug use through injection as a result of this needle exchange.
Based on estimates of population, rates of needle exchange, program costs, and predictions of future HIV infections, the researchers concluded that the program was cost-effective.
Decriminalization of the purchase and possession of a syringe without a prescription resulted in a reduced demand for the needle exchange program.