Good Question: Free syringes for drug users, but not for diabetics?

You may have heard in some cities, including Rochester, clinics give out free syringes to drug users. It’s a way to combat the spread of illness. But why isn’t there a similar program for non-drug users who need syringes to stay alive?

Jim Wedman, from Lyons, has Type 1 diabetes and asked Pat Taney about that.

He says he pays around $10 per month for the syringes he needs to stay alive.

"How about equality for law-abiding citizens like me?" Wedman asked. We took Wedman’s question to Trillium Health which runs a needle exchange program on Central Avenue in Rochester.

On the surface, it sounds simple. Drug users can walk in, meet with a trained health professional and receive an ID card which will allow them to receive free and clean syringes.

But Julie Ritzler-Shelling, director of the Harm Reduction Program at Trillium Health , says it does much more than that.

"The intention of the program is to prevent the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C, among other illnesses and skin conditions," Ritzler-Shelling said.

The program has been very successful. Ritzler-Shelling says in the early 1990s, HIV infection rates for those who injected was more than 50 percent."If you fast forward four to five years later, that rate falls to less than 3 percent and it has hovered there ever since," she said.Also, the health professionals who meet with users who come into the clinic, establish a trust which can lead people to get the help they need to beat addiction."We’ve linked them to houses, to treatment and they’ve been taken off the streets," Ritzler-Shelling said.But back to our question. Taney: If I am a diabetic, why am I not given the same access to free syringes? Ritzler-Shelling: It’s not apples to apples here.There has not been a nationwide epidemic of blood-borne illnesses spread by […]

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