, Volume 79, Issue 4, pp 556-570

Effects of increasing syringe availability on syringe-exchange use and HIV risk: Connecticut, 1990–2001

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Abstract

Syringe-exchange programs (SEPs) in Connecticut operate with caps on the number of syringes exchanged per visit. We investigated the effects of legislation increasing the cap on drug injectors' access to clean syringes through the SEPs in New Haven and Hartford. The mixed design of this study included longitudinal and crosssectional data from individuals and ecological data from program operations. Five parameters—syringe return rate, syringes per visit to the SEP, syringe reuse rate, syringe human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence, and syringe sharing—were monitored through syringe tracking and testing of SEP syringes and by interviewing injectors. Two increases in the cap—from 5 to 10 and then from 10 to 30—had little effect on the five parameters that measured injectors' access to clean syringes. In contrast, access to clean syringes increased when the New Haven SEP first began operations, when syringes first became available at pharmacies in Hartford, and when the agency running the Hartford SEP changed. Legislation providing piecemeal increases in the cap may not, by themselves, be sufficient to increase injectors' access to clean syringes and decrease the risk of human immunodeficiency virus transmission in this population.