Needle Exchange expands hours and impact on community
Posted Dec 08 2010 12:50pm
One of AIDS Action Committee ’s many policy and advocacy initiatives has been to provide individuals access to clean needles as a way to effectively prevent HIV transmission. In 2005, AAC chaired the Massachusetts Pharmacy Access Campaign in an effort to provide over-the-counter sales of clean needles in pharmacies, which eventually led to the 2007 Pharmacy Access Law .
While the Pharmacy Access Law was a huge victory, program participants still experience significant economic and stigma-related barriers when purchasing needles at pharmacies. AIDS Action’s Cambridge NEP Drop-In Center seeks to help reduce those barriers, and remains one of the few places to access not only free, sterile syringes and disposal, but also life-saving education on topics such as safer injection and overdose. Providing a safe, judgment-free space allows more injection drug users to acquire the tools to protect themselves from HIV, Hepatitis and other blood-borne illnesses, and increases the likelihood of connecting them with other resources such as substance use programs and counseling.
In the past year, the NEP Drop-In Center was able to provide clean needles to nearly 2,000 individuals, with a 79% return rate of used needles. On top of that, 571 Narcan kits were distributed, a life-saving tool that can be used to reverse a potentially fatal overdose. Just recently the NEP Drop-In Center decided to expand its hours of operation, piloting new Saturday hours from 11am-2pm.
The Cambridge Needle Exchange provides the following free, confidential, and non-judgmental services to injection drug users, their partners, and family members:
Clean syringes, safer injection supplies and personal sharps containers
Overdose prevention and education including Narcan distribution
Wound care kits including education on abscesses and Cellulitis
Rapid HIV testing
Harm reduction counseling
Referrals to medical and social services and Hepatitis C screening and care
Help with enrollment in detox, methadone, and residential and outpatient counseling programs
Peer support groups and educational workshops
Cambridge NEP Drop-In Center
17 Sellers Street
Cambridge, MA 02139