Vending machines offer sodas, coffee and snacks to consumers. In Nevada, vending machines also will be used to dispense free, clean needles to drug addicts.
Las Vegas unveiled the experiment Wednesday, the Las Vegas Journal-Review reported. According to Southern Nevada health officials, the initiative is part of an effort to reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, KLAS reported.
The program is a joint effort between the Southern Nevada Health District, the Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society and Trac-B Exchange, which developed the machine, the Journal-Review reported. The thrust behind the idea is that making clean needles and other gear available will reduce the spread of blood-related infections among drug users who would otherwise share the needles.
“Having access to clean syringes is a harm-reduction approach that’s going to allow people to protect themselves against getting communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C,” Chelsi Cheatom, program manager for Trac-B Exchange, told the Journal-Review.
No money will be required to acquire the needles from the vending machines. Inside the kit is a cardboard box of 10 syringes, a rubber tourniquet, a disposal container for used needles, alcohol swabs and Band-Aids, KLAS reported. There also will be an information sheet detailing where users can find treatment.
Users will have to register first to receive a swipe card and unique identification number that they can use to receive up to two kits per week, the Journal-Review reported.
“This is like our heart and soul. Seeing this happen is actually like a dream come true,” Michele Jorge, HIV lab director at the Community Counseling Center, told the Journal-Review.
Patrick Bozarth, the center’s executive director, told the Journal-Review that the machines will be housed in a private office in his facility. A case manager will be available to help those who need clean syringes, provide them with any other services they require and, if possible, assist them with finding treatment, he said.
Dr. Jerry Cade, who co-founded University Medical Center’s HIV clinic in Las Vegas, has been talking about a safe needle exchange for 30 years, KLAS reported.
“No, I didn’t even envision the vending machines,” he told KLAS. “I think it’s a great idea, I never thought about doing it that way.”