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Arizona okays needle exchange programs

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Count Arizona, among the states, has now legalized syringe exchange programs. Gov. Doug Ducey recently signed the bill into law last week. 

The Southern Arizona Aids Foundation was among the leading groups pressing state lawmakers to make this legal statewide for several years.

"Especially in 2021, that states are moving towards legalizing syringe service programs is really monumental," Luis Ortega, SAAF Director of Programs said.

Kayla Kurti is a health education specialist at SAAF.

"We've come close a couple of times, but this time, we made it across the finish line," Kurti said. "If you are a participant of a needle exchange program, you cannot be arrested or charged for possession of paraphernalia for having possession of syringes, whether they're used or not used, clean or dirty."

Users will have to have a participation ID showing they are part of the needle exchange program.

"The supplies we give out, they are very much harm reduction supplies that prevent abscesses, from wounds infected, from clogging up hospitals, emergency rooms, freeing up those beds for true emergencies."

Using clean needles reduces the chances of getting HIV and Hepatitis C.

Ortega argues this move will lead to more users getting into recovery in the future.

"We know that people who utilize syringe service programs get connected to treatment services and they're more likely to stop using over time," he said.

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