New Jersey has become the last state where intravenous drug users can legally get clean needles, but two of the state’s three needle exchanges are struggling to get clients, reports the Associated Press. An underlying problem is funding. While state authorized exchanges in 2006, it has not helped pay for them. One program in Camden distributes needles out of the back of a blue van that sets up Tuesday afternoons on a gravel parking lot in a desolate corner in the industrial Waterfront South section of city. Officials say they would rather have addicts congregating there than in the more visible downtown area.
New Jersey is believed to have tens of thousands of IV drug users; a 2004 study estimated there were as many as 23,400 in the Newark area alone. But only about 200 are enrolled so far in the three existing exchanges. Advocates of the exchanges hope addicts who have easier access to needles won’t be as likely to share them, and the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases will be slowed. According to one report, at least 43 percent of New Jersey’s 48,000 reported HIV and AIDS cases were transmitted through needles. The New Jersey law passed in 2006 over heavy opposition and after years of wrangling.