Even though, educating IDUs is one way to prevent the sharing of needles, one should remember the need of IDUs to access sterile syringes, in a confidential needle exchange program within their communities would be a good solution to this problem. Currently, this program is being offered through Expanded Syringe Access Demonstration (ESAP) 5. But at times, IDUs will be reluctant to go get needles in pharmacies for obvious reasons such as police persecution, being called names, and most importantly being identified as a drug user6. In order to incorporate a syringe exchange program, we must be aware about all the factors that hinder an IDU from getting the help they need. In a study conducted by Pouget ER, Deren S, Fuller CM, et al. “Receptive syringe sharing among injection drug users in Harlem and the Bronx during the New York State Expanded Syringe Access Demonstration Program” suggests that discrimination on the part of the police force is another factor why the minority group do not go to pharmacies to buy syringes that are made legal under the new ESAP law7; “based on the perceptions or previous experiences of discrimination. African Americans and Hispanics have been stopped and searched by the New York City Police Department more frequently than whites”8 This harassment from the police also leads to HIV transmission through IDU, that is why it is important for laws to be passed to prevent this from occurring.
For about six years, New York City has been working towards providing legal access to needle exchanges in the city, “Since January 1, 2001, individuals aged 18 years or older have been permitted to purchase and legally possess up to 10 syringes without prescription from pharmacies registered with the New York State Department of Health.”9 Yet not everyone is induced to use these new resources, especially the Black and Hispanic Population of the South Bronx10. According to research done by Fuller CM, Galea S, Caceres W, Blaney S, Sisco S, Vlahov D et.al. “Multilevel community-based intervention to increase access to sterile syringes among injection drug users through pharmacy sales in New York City”. The research suggest that in the South Bronx a majority of the group of 220 (90) people with P<.18 were not aware of ESAP, and the majority in the group consisted of Hispanics 158(70) people with P<.11 in a group of n= 24911. This data suggest that the IDU Hispanic community has a problem when it comes to receiving appropriate information that will benefit them. Therefore, I propose that more programs educating South Bronx IDUs on ESAP should become available.
Programs that educate South Bronx IDUs on ESAP would be helpful in reducing the transmission of HIV through shared needles, because the IDU population will now have legal means of obtaining the clean needles. This program will yield an increase in the usage of pharmacies as a source of sterile syringes. The way to address this would be simple; pamphlets will be distributed at syringe exchange agencies in the Bronx such as St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction 12 that will inform IDUs that ESAP allows for legal purchasing of needles. These pamphlets should also include locations of where IDUs can go to, to purchase these new syringes, and it should inform them of the price and availability of the product. For example, “syringes are typically sold in pharmacies in 10-packs for $2-$8, or from $0.30 to $2.00 each when sold singly.”13 This solution is also an inexpensive one because it only requires the distribution of pamphlets that are already available or could be easily manufactured to places that are more accessible to IDUs.