Hillsborough County commissioners approve first needle exchange program

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County commissioners voted this week to approve one of the state’s first county needle exchange programs.

In a move allowing the exchange of used hypodermic syringes and needles for their clean counterparts, commissioners approved the Syringe Service Program with a five-to-one vote.

State legislation allowing needle exchange programs was enacted last year amid a growing fentanyl epidemic. Hillsborough County led the sate in opioid use along with the most hospital costs for intravenous drug use diseases and infections.

In recent years, new HIV diagnoses have risen noticeably. Thirteen percent of all of the HIV diagnoses in the country belong to Florida residents.

New HIV diagnosis per year in Florida

Hover over the bar to see the exact number.

Source: CDC

According to a Hillsborough County report, 7,521 people in the county were living with HIV in 2018. At least 323 of those were new diagnoses.

HIV cases

Here’s a look at the number of HIV cases per 100,000 people in the bay arae. Hover over the bar to see the exact number.

Source: Florida Department of Health

In the same report, Hillsborough County officials reported 179 opioid-related deaths in 2017. That number increased in 2018 to 222 opioid-related deaths in Hillsborough County.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, needle exchange programs are effective in preventing the spread of viruses among users of injection drugs.

Miami-Dade County, which was the first to implement a needle exchange program in Florida, saw a decrease from 321 opioid-related deaths in 2016 to 305 deaths in 2017 after beginning the program.

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