While this device saves lives by delivering vaccines and medications and drawing blood for testing, unsafe sharing of dirty hypodermic needles among illicit drug users is a major culprit in the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
In the 1980s, needle exchange programs played a vital role in the public health response to the growing AIDS pandemic. The programs not only allowed people to trade in their dirty needles for clean ones, but they also provided education, access to health care, and opportunities for additional treatment.
This cost-effective solution saves both lives and critical health-care dollars. In the United States, needles can cost as little as 97 cents each, whereas the estimated cost to care for a person who contracts HIV at age 35 is more than $325,000.