Allegheny County, Pa., Board of Health Declares Public Health Emergency to Facilitate Introduction of Needle-Exchange Pilot Program
The Allegheny County, Pa., Board of Health yesterday declared a state of public health emergency for HIV and bloodborne diseases to facilitate the establishment of a needle-exchange pilot program for intravenous drug users, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The possession of syringes without a prescription is illegal in Pennsylvania unless a state of emergency has been declared. The board made the unanimous decision after hearing a report from its subcommittee on needle exchange. Subcommittee member Azizi Powell presented a survey by Prevention Point Pittsburgh, a not-for-profit group that has conducted an underground needle-exchange program in Pittsburgh for several years, that found that 90% of surveyed intravenous drug users were infected with hepatitis and 8% had HIV. In addition, 451 of the area's 1,995 reported AIDS cases are among IV drug users. The emergency declaration will allow an agency that has not yet been chosen to set up a needle-exchange program and will make it easier for that group to solicit funds. "This is just a mechanism. It's hard to ask for money when you are expecting a criminal event to occur," Dr. Roy Titchworth, chair of the county board, said. Prevention Point Pittsburgh is considered the frontrunner to administer the needle-exchange program. The subcommittee has not decided how the program will operate, but members said they were studying programs in other cities, including Philadelphia, which has carried out a successful program for several years (Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.