Nevada Installing Syringe Vending Machines
Public health officials in Nevada are rolling out a new harm reduction initiative: vending machines that will dispense clean syringes to people who inject drugs.
The vending machines will be available by the end of May at three locations in Las Vegas: Trac-B Exchange, Aid for AIDS Nevada, and Community Counseling Center. The idea is to reduce the spread of blood-borne infections like HIV and hepatitis, which can be a problem amongst intravenous drug users who don’t have access to clean needles.
“Having access to clean syringes is a harm reduction approach that’s going to allow people to protect themselves against getting communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C,” said Chelsi Cheatom, program manager for Trac-B Exchange.
According to public health officials, there are at least 5,800 active IV drug users in Clark County, where Las Vegas is. And nearly 1 in 10 new HIV cases in the county have been traced to IV drug use.
Individuals can receive up to two harm reduction kits per week, by registering at any of the three Las Vegas locations, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In addition to clean syringes, the vending machines will dispense a range of harm reduction tools including kits for safe sex, cleaning wounds and safely disposing used syringes.
A case manager will be on hand to assist people in need of the harm reduction tools, and in some cases will even connect them to treatment services, said Patrick Bozarth, CEO of the Community Counseling Center.
By not asking for any personal identifying information upon registering for access to the vending machines, the program’s creators hope to draw in more people who may normally avoid seeking help for drug use or other behavior that’s stigmatized by mainstream society.
The privately funded project is a collaboration between the Southern Nevada Health District, Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society, and Trac-B Exchange.