National Public Radio (NPR) recently published an article on February 16th, revisiting rural areas impacted by Indiana’s HIV outbreak after five years due to the sharing of used needles. Sadly, not much has changed since that time, and fewer than a third of the CDC-identified 220 United States counties at risk for a similar outbreak of HIV have harm reduction services such as needle exchanges. A Brown University study published in 2019, based on the Indiana HIV outbreak, determined if the state had a needle exchange set up before the HIV outbreak, a 90% reduction of the number of HIV cases potentially would have occurred.
Needle exchanges help keep people safe by cutting down the risks of such illnesses like HIV and Hepatitis C. They also provide people with opportunities to prevent overdoses including access to medications like naloxone (or NARCAN), access to primary care services or detox, and information on support groups. In addition, staff can help patients enter treatment facilities and connect patients to medication-assisted treatment programs. Offering harm reduction services is the START of caring for those who inject substances – not the end.
As an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse at the Round Lake Beach Midlakes Clinic for the Lake County Health Department, I care for patients with substance use disorders, HIV, Hepatitis C, and many other conditions. I am able to combine all of these specializations to care for the patient as a whole, rather than look at each health condition individually. I realize the stigma many people with substance use disorders feel when they are trying to receive care – or even just asking for sterile needles. Our clinics work with all patients to make sure they feel comfortable and able to receive what they need when they need it without judgment.
We are grateful for our relationship with Live4Lali, to allow our patients at many of our clinics to have harm reduction services available to them, as well as engage in primary care services to help them reach their health goals. We are excited about their new mobile van, which will provide harm reduction services to all who are in need. And we hope to continue to reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorders, starting with small ways to build healthy futures for all people!
Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Lake County Health Department
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This post was written by live4lali