Fewer HIV Cases Linked to Intravenous Drug Use
The Ventura County needle exchange program is helping to reduce transmission of HIV and hepatitis without increasing crime, according to a report by the county Health Care Agency, the Ventura County Star reports.
Ten years ago 16% of new HIV cases were related to intravenous drug use, compared with 0% last year, according to county Public Health Officer Robert Levin. However, Levin said the number of cases in the county is too small to determine whether the program had a direct effect on HIV transmission, although the two factors are associated.
County officials also said no crimes were directly associated with the needle exchange program.
Supervisors, who require statistics on the program annually, accepted the health agency's report without dissent. This year was the first time supervisors did not have to declare a state of emergency to continue the needle exchange program since legislation was signed last year to permit such programs.
Benjamin Stilp, executive director of Ventura County Rainbow Alliance, which administers the needle exchange program, said it is too soon to tell whether the program had reduced the number of drug-related HIV infections. Stilp said he considers the decline significant because of the increased popularity of drugs that can be injected (Wilson, Ventura County Star, 4/12).