Conference Held on State Syringe Exchange Program Tomorrow in New York City

Albany, NY, (October 31, 2007) – Accomplishments of the state's syringe exchange program in reducing HIV transmission will be highlighted at a conference from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., November 1, at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, 811 Seventh Ave., sponsored by the New York State Department of Health's AIDS Institute.

Syringe exchange programs have dramatically reduced HIV transmission and the incidence of hepatitis C among drug injection users. The conference, in addition to highlighting the history and successes of the syringe exchanges, will provide a forum for ideas on the future of syringe access in the state.

There are 17 syringe exchange programs in the state, 13 of them in New York City and one each in Rochester, Buffalo, Tompkins County and the city of Mount Vernon. In addition to providing new, sterile syringes to drug injectors to prevent the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne pathogens, these programs provide:

  • HIV and hepatitis C prevention education;
  • Risk reduction interventions, including education on safer injection practices and;
  • Referrals to a wide range of services, including health care and drug treatment.

State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., who will provide closing remarks at the conference, said, "While visiting an syringe exchange program, I saw the remarkable work being carried out by the staff and volunteers and how the lives of program participants were being transformed for the better."

The core philosophy behind services at the syringe exchange programs is harm reduction. In this approach, according to AIDS Institute Director Guthrie S. Birkhead, M.D., M.P.H., "Agencies strive to meet clients wherever they are in their readiness to make changes promoting health and minimizing risks"

Research conducted at the Baron Edmund de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center has shown that from 1990—two years before the first authorized syringe exchange programs—to 2001, HIV prevalence among injectors in New York City has declined from 54 percent to 13 percent. Dr. Don Des Jarlais, Director of Research at the Chemical Dependency Institute and an evaluator of the New York State program, attributes this success to the syringe exchange programs and will present his findings at the conference.

Dr. Mathilde Krim, Founding Chair of the Foundation for AIDS Research will also be at the conference, sharing her reflections on syringe exchange since its earliest days in the state. Dr. Krim, who has been a tireless advocate for AIDS-related issues, was among the first to recognize the potential of syringe exchange as a public health intervention.

Please see the attached conference agenda at http://www.health.ny.gov/press/releases/2007/docs/2007-10-31_syringe_exchange_agenda.pdf (PDF, 19KB, 1pg.).