Georgia's Newest Effort in the Fight Against the Opioid Epidemic
At least 320 needle exchanges currently exist across the U.S. and are legal in 28 states and Washington, D.C., according to HIV and AIDS research organization AmfAR. Georgia’s Governor, Brian Kemp, recently signed a bill into law legalizing needle exchanges. The newest clinic in Atlanta collects and distributes syringes at a known drug hotspot in Atlanta. This new program is being operated by the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group that works with individuals engaged in high-risk activities, such as IV drug use.
The group not only hands out clean syringes, but also gives out naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. They also provide free HIV testing and assist clients in getting access to substance abuse treatment. Georgia has one of the highest rates of new HIV cases in the United States. Atlanta Harm Reduction operates in Fulton County, one of the 48 counties nationwide that account for more than half of all new HIV cases.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the estimated lifetime cost of treating one HIV patient is more than $400,000 and that people who inject drugs are five times as likely to enter substance abuse treatment if they use a needle exchange. This form of harm reduction is one way to help save lives, but the only way to truly be safe from overdose and death is to make the choice to enter treatment today. Help is always available.