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Chattanooga CARES Announces Syringe Exchange Program

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The group Chattanooga CARES says it is about to begin a program designed to help stem the spread of infectious diseases.

The group says the Syringe Trade and Education Program of TN (STEP TN) will reduce the spread of HIV and provide safe disposal of needles and syringes, and to tackle the community health concerns created by the opioid epidemic.

The program will begin this coming Monday.

Chattanooga CARES says the program will also educe needle stick injuries to law enforcement officers and other emergency personnel and encourage those who inject drugs to enroll in evidence-based treatment.

STEP TN will provide clean syringes, wound care supplies, naloxone (which is used to offset the effects of overdoses), and provide education/referrals for drug treatment, overdose prevention, and HIV and Hepatitis C testing and treatment.

The group says since 2011, opioid injection drug use in Tennessee has increased 38 percent and Tennessee’s drug-related deaths have increased 40 percent.

It also says there was a 364 percent increase in the number of cases of acute hepatitis C infection from 2006 to 2012 among people over 30 years old. and infections among pregnant women nearly doubled from 2009-2014.

Chattanooga CARES says a common myth is that syringe exchange programs encourage, enable or increase drug use and crime. But it cites research from the World Health Organization and American Medical Association to show that isn't true.

The group says many studies show that syringe exchange programs decrease drug use by connecting people to treatment, that syringe exchange program participants are five times more likely to enter drug treatment than non-participants.

Chattanooga CARES says syringe service programs are proven to decrease the number of used syringes discarded in public places by almost 50 percent.

It says that one-time use of syringes is the most effective way to limit the transmission of HIV among injection drug users (IDUs) by reducing HIV infection rates by 80 percent.

Chattanooga CARES says in 2015, there were 3,600 HIV diagnoses among IDUs, and about 30 percent IDUs under the age of 30 were diagnosed with Hepatitis C, while close to 90 percent of older IDUs had Hepatitis C.

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