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Needle exchange program aims to reduce HIV in Bexar County

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SAN ANTONIO -- Syringe exchange programs have seen success in other places across the country and now organizations here can offer those services.

“We know that HIV is increasing and continues to increase and we know some of that increase is being driven by dirty needles,” said, Dr. Colleen Bridger, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District Director.

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Bridger is part of group of community activists, telling people the importance of syringe exchange services, which have now been allowed to operate in the county with the blessing of District Attorney Nico LaHood.

According to Bridger, clean needle services have been done in the dark.

“They can come above ground and they can do this because they have the blessing of the DA,” Bridger said.

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The rate of people getting HIV here in Bexar county is alarming.

“Bexar County is above the state average, and the state is above the national average, so we are trending in the wrong direction,” said Bridger.

Critics of clean needle programs say it encourages people to keep using.

"Are we enabling? No. They are going to use drugs, they are going to use needles, the question is whether it’s a clean needle or it’s a dirty needle," Bridger said.

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Clean needles could not be limited to people who us illegal drugs.

Folks who need to inject prescribed medication could use these services too.

The county and medical experts are hosting a Syringe Services Programs Summit on May 23 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Living Church at Woodlawn Place. The church is located at 702 Donaldson Ave in San Antonio.

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