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Columbus Needle Exchange Can Reduce Disease

lauri rantala
Columbus health officials say the needle exchange can cut down on the incidence of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Columbus is in the midst of a heroin epidemic. Health officials worry about an increase in infectious diseases.  The city now has a needle exchange program that could help reduce those risks.

AIDS Resource Center Ohio introduced the Safe Point program at its Short North location at the end of January.

Its CEO Peggy Anderson said the program will help reduce the incidence of HIV and Hepatitis C in IV drug users. She said it also opens a door to treatment and other services.

"If I can then get in front of you and build a relationship to say, 'well, do you need medical care? Do you want to talk about treatment? And do you want to talk about having Naloxone or Narcan on hand for your family members or your friends who also may find you if you're in overdose," Anderson said.

A change to state law last fall now permits needle exchanges without cities declaring a public health emergency.

Anderson says so far, more than 30 people use the exchange, and more than one-thousand clean needles have been handed out.

She said AIDS United funds its program.