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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

GW: Study Finds Syringe Exchange Programs Prevented Thousands of HIV Cases in Philadelphia and Baltimore

Researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) found syringe exchange programs established in Philadelphia and Baltimore prevented over 12,000 new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases over a ten-year period. The study was published this week in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

The new study may help policymakers nationwide understand the benefits of providing funding for syringe exchange programs. Such programs distribute sterile injection equipment to injection drug users and thus discourage the practice of sharing needles, which can spread HIV, the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Dr. Monica S. Ruiz, an associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH, and her colleagues looked at how policy changes allowing for implementation of legal syringe exchange programs in Philadelphia and Baltimore affected the number of new HIV cases over a decade. The researchers used a mathematical modeling technique to estimate how many cases of HIV had been averted after the programs had been set up.

The researchers found that policies to allow syringe exchange programs to operate averted 10,592 new cases of HIV in Philadelphia and 1,891 new cases of HIV in Baltimore over a ten-year period. The averted HIV infections saved both cities millions of dollars every year, according to the researchers.

“Small investments in syringe exchange programs yield large savings in treatment costs,” said Dr. Ruiz, who is also the principal investigator on the project. “Syringe exchange programs represent a powerful way to stop the spread of HIV, especially in communities struggling to fight the opioid epidemic. “

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