Health Secretary Backs the Controversial Needle Exchanges

Health Secretary Alex Azar

This post was last updated on March 24th, 2019 at 01:13 pm

The Trump administration has been battling between morals and measure, when it comes to the needle exchange programs. However, the Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar recently expressed his opinion on the issue, during a speech at the National HIV Prevention Conference in Washington.

He backed the scheme, citing it as a way to reduce new HIV infections among those who inject illicit drugs. Azar said that the Syringe services programs (SEPs) aren’t really considered to have any link with the Republican Health secretary. But, he believes that the country is in a conflict “between sickness and health” and “between life and death”.

The needle exchange programs are community-based programs providing clean needles to people to inject drugs, in order to prevent the spread of fatal infections, including Hepatitis C and HIV.

On Tuesday, Azar said, “The public health evidence for targeted interventions here is strong, and supporting communities when they need to use these tools means fewer infections and healthier lives for our fellow Americans.”

In the past, Republicans have expressed their opposition towards needle exchanges, as they promote the use of drugs. Vice President Mike Pence also initially resisted the program, while serving as governor of Indiana country, where an outgoing HIV epidemic in 2015 was caused due to needle sharing among the drug users.

Citing his moral beliefs, he authorized the program for short-term when the outbreak reached 55 infections in the county. However, eventually Pence had to sign a bill to allow the needle exchanges if county governments can prove that a HIV or Hepatitis C epidemic is occurring.

Studies have revealed that the program is effective in preventing the spread of HIV. Besides, they often provide services including, HIV and hepatitis testing, substance abuse treatment and other services.

Health secretary Azar stated that although he would support SEPs, the Trump administration remains against the safe injection sites. These locations mainly allow people to use illegal drugs with trained staff providing clean needles and responding to overdoses.

Azar explained that these sites “raise entirely different legal concerns”. Although he is supporting the programs, it is still unclear whether or not the administration would authorize the SEPs.


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