New Virginia Law Allows Addicts Access to Clean Syringes
In an effort to curb the opioid epidemic’s effects on Virginia, which declared opioid use a public health emergency last year, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a law allowing syringe access programs in the state.
Syringe access programs, according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), aim to “reduce the spread of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases” and “. . . provide information to individuals who inject drugs regarding addiction treatment services (2017). Additionally, these programs “have a proven, decades-long track record of preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C” (DPA, 2017).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this year that between the years of 2010 and 2015, hepatitis C (HCV) cases have increased 294 percent, with new rates highest in young IV drug users (Kim, 2017). The CDC report also stated that “to promote HCV prevention, state laws can facilitate access to clean injection equipment and other services to persons who inject drugs, and thereby be an effective tool to reduce the risk of transmission” (Kim, 2017).
Virginia has already seen a significant increase in cases of hepatitis C: over 6,600 cases reported in 2014 and over eight thousand cases reported in 2015 (DPA, 2017). With this law, they will join North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington in providing syringe access programs, and Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, and Maryland in implementing syringe access reforms (DPA, 2017).
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). (2017). Governor Terry McAuliffe legalizes syringe access programs in Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2017/02/governor-terry-mcauliffe-legalizes-syringe-access-programs-virginia
Kim, V. (2017). Virginia legalizes syringe access amid opioid public health emergency. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/virginia-legalizes-syringe-access-amid-opioid-public-health-emergency