To try and lower the risk of HIV and Hepatitis C infection through shared needle use, Las Vegas will be the first U.S. city to install public syringe vending machines.

The initiative has already been seen in Puerto Rico, Australia, and some European countries.

The syringes are provided to those who provide an approved card and their unique ID number. No money is required to get a box of 10 needles, which also contains a rubber tourniquet, a disposal kit, alcohol swabs, and safe sex kits.

Nevada introduces syringe vending machines
HIV could be blocked by gene-edited cells from people immune to the virus. Photo credit:

Addicts are people and should be cared for

The idea behind the vending machines is that they would encourage drug users to use clean syringes. Sharing syringes increases the risk of becoming infected with Hepatitis C and HIV, as sharing needles is how 45 percent of new Hepatitis C cases are originated.

Trac-B exchange develops the machines, a program overseen by the Las Vegas Hard Reduction Center. Hard reduction groups try to help addicts take better care of themselves by letting them be safe of the risk of transmission of diseases. Furthermore, having them registered in a database will allow them to be tracked if there is a need to do so.

Providing clean syringes is also an attempt to protect heroin users, as the CDC estimates that heroin use rates among young adults have doubled in the last ten years, while heroin overdose deaths between 2002 and 2013 became four times more frequent

A similar effort was seen in Vancouver but with crack pipes instead. Two crack pipe vending machines were installed by the Portland Hotel Society n the PHS’ Drug Users Resource Centre and the Washington Market. The pipes cost just 25 cents, and users can buy as many as they like.

Public needle vending machines out now in Nevada
A woman tries out the new syringe vending machine, Nevada’s solution to heroin users. Image Source: Review Journal

There’s is a risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis C through the use of crack pipes, as addicts oftentimes break their lips on the pipe, which is then shared for another person to use.

“It’s a philosophy of service at the front end, and adjusting the way we look at drug users. Too often we fail to see drug users as human beings, and they become defined by that and get called all these names like junkies and addicts. It becomes harder as a society to respond to them with kindness,” stated Liz Evans, director at New York Harm Reduction Educators according to NBC.

Hard reduction experts assure that having clean drug paraphernalia is vital for helping patients recover themselves from their addiction. For an addict to recover, they should have a detox facility, safe spaces to use the drug, and clean supplies for doing so. Acquiring syringes or pipes can be a gruesome task for an addict, but having a machine for such purpose ensures a certain degree of anonymity and allows the user to at least take some care of its health while using drugs.

I’d like to think that this is not the only place that this could happen. I’d like to see this idea go all over the place,” stated Mariner Janes, manager of the PHS’ needle exchange program, when talking about what people have told her about the crack pipe program.

Source: NBC News