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1,000+ Enrolled In Needle Exchanges, But Problems Remain

In Indiana, five counties have established syringe-exchange programs, or SEPs. The State Department of Health reports more than a thousand people have enrolled in SEPs in Fayette, Monroe, Scott, Madison and Wayne Counties.

The vast majority of the state's participants are in Scott and Monroe counties, which account for about 90-percent of the state's enrollees. More than a dozen other counties are exploring the possibility of implementing or seeking approval for their own programs.

Scott County, the epicenter of Indiana's HIV epidemic and the first county to establish an SEP last year, has supplied approximately 277,000 syringes and collected 263,000, although the syringes returned aren't necessarily the ones originally distributed. The state health department says Scott County's program has slowed the spread of HIV and other diseases there.

Monroe County supplied 63,000 needles and collected 40,000. Both Scott and Monroe counties use mobile exchanges, although a similar mobile program in Fayette County was suspended because the van there became stigmatized in the community.

Monroe County exchange administrator Kathy Hewitt says the mobile van there worked because it also provides other services.

"When they go to a site and do outreach, people don't know exactly why people are getting on the van it could be for syringes or for works but it could be that they need some hygiene supplies," Hewitt says.

The ISDH also says some programs had problems gaining trust in communities and securing money to establish the SEPs, which, though they're now legal by state law, the state is forbidden from funding.

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