Weekly / May 11, 2018 / 67(18);529–532
Danae Bixler, MD1; Greg Corby-Lee2; Scott Proescholdbell, MPH3; Tina Ramirez4; Michael E. Kilkenny, MD5; Matt LaRocco6; Robert Childs, MPH7; Michael R. Brumage, MD4; Angela D. Settle, DNP8; Eyasu H. Teshale, MD1; Alice Asher, PhD1 (View author affiliations)
What is already known about this topic?
Opioid overdose, human immunodeficiency virus, and viral hepatitis have increased among persons who inject drugs in the United States. Comprehensive syringe services programs (SSPs) reduce risks associated with injection drug use (IDU); however, access to SSPs has been limited.
What is added by this report?
SSPs have increased dramatically in Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia with support from government officials, community advocates, and healthcare providers.
What are the implications for public health practice?
Comprehensive SSPs can mitigate the health effects of IDU. With appropriate authorization and support, agencies can successfully implement SSPs in underserved areas.
The Appalachian region of the United States is experiencing a large increase in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections related to injection drug use (IDU) (1). Syringe services programs (SSPs) providing sufficient access to safe injection equipment can reduce hepatitis C transmission by 56%; combined SSPs and medication-assisted treatment can reduce transmission by 74% (2). However, access to SSPs has been limited in the United States, especially in rural areas and southern and midwestern states (3). This report describes the expansion of SSPs in Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia during 2013–August 1, 2017. State-level data on the number of SSPs, client visits, and services offered were collected by each state through surveys of SSPs and aggregated in a standard format for this report. In 2013, one SSP operated in a free clinic in West Virginia, and SSPs were illegal in Kentucky and North Carolina; by August 2017, SSPs had been legalized in Kentucky and North Carolina, and 53 SSPs operated in the three states. In many cases, SSPs provide integrated services to address hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, overdose, addiction, unintended pregnancy, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and other complications of IDU. Prioritizing development of SSPs with sufficient capacity, particularly in states with counties vulnerable to epidemics of hepatitis and HIV infection related to IDU, can expand access to care for populations at risk.