Pubdate: Mon, 25 Mar 2002
Source: Spokesman-Review (WA)
Copyright: 2002 The Spokesman-Review
Author: Lynn Everson


Richard Clear (Letters, March 12) seems confused about needle exchange 
programs and the new Know Your Status program. Hopefully, this letter will 
help enlighten him and others who may be unsure of the reason these 
programs have been implemented.

The needle exchange began operating in Spokane in 1991. Each year, the 
number of exchangers and the number of syringes exchanged increases. The 
increases result from drug users' efforts to avoid infection with Hepatitis 
B or C or with HIV.

The exchange also provides education and referrals. In 2001 we referred 
clients to other services more than 600 times. The fact that our clients 
care about reducing the harm their addictions do to themselves, their 
families and their community is demonstrated by the fact that they exchange 
regularly while continuing to work toward being clean and sober.

Clear is also confused about the behavior of HIV-infected people, most of 
whom are very concerned about infecting others. HIV is most often spread by 
those who are unaware of their infection. The Know Your Status program 
helps identify those who don't know they are infected.

Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood contact, and since the 
availability of testing, it is rarely spread by blood products. Through 
education about risk-reduction with injection drug users, we hope to reduce 
the spread of Hepatitis C as well as HIV.

Anyone with questions or concerns is invited to contact either Lisa with 
the Know Your Status program (324-1547) or Lynn with the needle exchange 
program (324-1549). We want the community to be aware of our programs and 
the results.

Lynn Everson

Spokane, WA
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