San Antonio may find the help needed for the ongoing effort against AIDS and other communicable diseases, as a bill legalizing the distribution of sterile needles passed through the House.
State Rep. Ruth McClendon, a San Antonio Democrat, filed the bill which aims to create disease-control programs that would reduce blood-borne diseases and refer program participants to appropriate health facilities.
The proposal allows people involved in local needle-exchange initiatives to anonymously exchange used syringes for an equal number of new ones. The bill also provides educational resources pertaining to transmission and prevention of communicable diseases, substance abuse treatment services and blood-borne disease testing.
The Bexar County Commissioners Court may approve funding Tuesday for the Ryan White Part A Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI). The program will provide essential medical and support services.
Providing clean syringes lowers the incidence of HIV infections by 80 percent among drug users. While treatment for infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for a lifetime of care, syringes can cost as little as 97 cents per needle, the San Antonio Current previously reported.
"These harm reduction programs in other states have shown themselves to reduce the incidence of HIV and hepatitis; both of those diseases are unfortunately still prevalent in our community," Seth Mitchell, assistant to the county manager told the Current
Back in 2007, San Antonio had nearly implemented their own exchange program but was quickly shut down when licensed health professionals, volunteering with the Bexar Area Harm Reduction Coalition (BAHRC), were arrested for violating Texas' drug paraphernalia law.
Former District Attorney Susan Reed and Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth escalated the original Class C misdemeanors to Class A offenses and that ended all needle-exchange action from San Antonio.