Georgia state senator weighs in on new needle exchange bill

Georgia state senator weighs in on new needle exchange bill
GA House passes proposal for drug users to exchange used needles (Source: WTVM)

The needle exchange program aims to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C infections across the state.

State senators, like Ed Harbison, who agree with the bill, say they are surprised Georgia is just now hopping on the bandwagon because the program is nothing new in other states.

This program has been around since the 1980s and states like Florida, Louisiana, and Kentucky already have it in place.

“I’m so surprised we’re still ranked way up there, number five, with a population of 11 million people here, we’ve got to take a look at that and put our arms around it and make an impact,” said state Senator Harbison.

The program would allow drug users to turn in their dirty needles in exchange for clean ones, creating a safe haven from getting infected.

“I believe right now there is only one place in Georgia that offers a needle exchange, so if we could increase those locations that would help to decrease the number of cases that we are seeing transmitted by intravenous drug use,” said Pam Kirkland with the Georgia Public Health Department.

If the bill passes through the state Senate, different organizations who want to step in and promote clean needle usage can do so.

“The people, and myself, who’s noticed this problem included in the General Assembly who notice this problem, says if the people who access these needles are more likely to go into treatment programs,” said state Senator Harbison.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, there were more than 2,000 people diagnosed with HIV in 2017.

“I’ve discovered that the HIV virus can live up to 42 days in a needle, so that tells us right there, people are sharing needles, their risk is very high for transmitting HIV,” said Kirkland.

As of now, the bill is only a topic of discussion nothing in Alabama and nothing has been voted on.

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