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Syringe Service Programs Expand to Address HCV, Other Issues

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Programs providing access to safe injection equipment for injection drug users (IDUs) have increased in number from 1 to 53 in recent years in three Appalachian region states that are grappling with a spike in Hepatitis C (HCV) infections associated with IDU. The means by which expansion of Syringe Service Programs (SSPs) took place is outlined in Access to Syringe Services Programs — Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia, 2013–2017 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

According to studies, SSPs that adequate access to safe injection equipment can reduce HCV transmission by 56%, while SSPs with medication-assisted treatment can reduce HCV transmission by 74%. 

SSPs have been limited in number across the United States but especially in rural areas. This MMWR report describes the legislative and policy requirements for operation of SSPs in Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia, which faced some resistance given concerns that SSPs might enable drug abuse. Common elements for SSP operations include, for example, formation of collaborations (typically including local and state health department and law enforcement), data reporting and--notably--delivery of primary care, substance abuse and other services, including HIV care. Thus, many SSPs provide integrated services to address not just HCV but also HIV, overdoses and addiction treatment, unintended pregnancies and other complications of IDU. 

See our listings of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program grant recipients in Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia.

Syringe service programs and client visits

SSPs and client visits to SSPs by persons who inject drugs — Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia, 2013–2017

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