Proponents say that Prevention Point Pittsburgh’s needle exchange program is an example of a public health measure that has been successfully used around the country to limit the spread of dangerous infections like HIV and hepatitis C, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Some people worry that handing out needles and syringes to drug users is contrary to state law that says people cannot possess drug paraphernalia without a prescription. Others fear that the program will encourage drug use.
An Allegheny County Councilman Vince Gastgeb, said the needle exchange program, which is privately funded, had been operating for too long without an ordinance and without numbers that showed that it had slowed the spread of HIV and hepatitis C infections. “No one is attempting to shut it down in any fashion, but we’re attempting to craft a better ordinance,” Gastgeb said. He noted that after examining the issues, which likely will take months, County Council members still might not vote to support it. The only other needle exchange program in the state, Prevention Point Philadelphia, receives public funds and has operated officially since an HIV public health emergency was declared more than a decade ago by then-Mayor Ed Rendell.