The Needle Exchange Program of Asheville (NEPA), by WNCAP, is featured prominently in the latest edition of the popular free Asheville weekly, Mountain Xpress (August 8-14, 2018). Over the course of a four-page feature article titled “Less Harm Done”, author David Floyd takes a deep dive into several local harm reduction programs, including NEPA and The Steady Collective. Floyd also explains that the Buncombe County Health Department may soon begin operating its own syringe exchange, although this idea is controversial among public health professionals.
Using un-sterile syringes can result in a variety of serious health problems, including infections and abscesses, Hepatitis and HIV infections. The cost of treating those infections, both in terms of money and personal health, can be enormous. By distributing sterile syringes, NEPA and The Steady Collective are helping to significantly reduce new infections among people who are already extremely vulnerable. Also, by providing a space where people can safely store and then dispose of un-sterile syringes, harm reduction programs mitigate the public health risk of needles being tossed out in public places. Finally, harm reduction programs help connect vulnerable people with resources, including HIV testing, condoms, domestic violence and sex worker outreach programs, and even case management services. Far from “enabling” people to continue using drugs, harm reduction programs meet people where they are and help them to improve their lives, or at least help protect them from HIV and Hepatitis.
The article is not online, but you can find a scanned PDF copy here.