Posted On 14 Jun 2019
About half of Kentucky adults favor programs that allow people who use intravenous drugs to exchange used needles for sterile ones, while about 40 percent oppose such programs, according to the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) report.
Generally, the more familiar Kentucky adults are with needle exchange programs, the more likely they are to support exchanges as a strategy to reduce the transmission of HIV and other viruses, the report also found. In addition, Kentucky adults with more education, those who live in urban areas, and those ages 18 to 29 are most likely to favor needle exchanges.
KHIP is an annual telephone poll of Kentucky adults about health and health-policy issues; it is funded jointly by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Interact for Health.
“More than 50 needle exchange programs are operating in Kentucky, helping to reduce the chances of hepatitis C or HIV outbreaks that can put everyone in a community at risk,” said Dr. Brent Wright, associate dean for rural health innovation at the University of Louisville. Dr. Wright also is treasurer of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s board of directors. “These programs also remove dangerous used needles from the community, and can give participants access to vaccinations, substance use disorder treatment, overdose prevention information and disease screening,” he said.
The stigma of drug use and addiction can often lead to opposition for needle exchanges and other harm-reduction strategies, the Foundation said.
Ben Chandler, Foundation president and CEO, said, “Needle exchange programs are about community safety and connecting people to treatment. They don’t lead to higher drug use, and they don’t lead to more crime in the communities where they’re located. We can’t let false perceptions stand in the way of a proven strategy to help deal with Kentucky’s opioid and meth crises.”
Opinion in Kentucky has remained steady since the last time KHIP included the needle exchange questions in 2016. There was, however, a nine-percentage point reduction in opposition to needle exchange programs, from 50 percent to 41 percent, among Kentucky adults who felt they were not very familiar with such programs.