Beginning in 1998, Washington, DC, wasn’t permitted to use its funds to support needle exchanges. Changing that policy spared an estimated 120 drug users from HIV infection over a two-year period, per a study by George Washington University published today in AIDS and Behavior.
The change came in late 2007, and USA Today reports that the needle exchange’s initial two-year period cost the city’s health department $1.3 million. But the avoided cases saved far more than that: a lifetime of HIV treatment for 120 people works out to $45.6 million, for a net savings of $44.3 million, per the researchers, who point out that “many injection drug users are covered by publicly funded health plans.”
How lead author Monica Ruiz sees it: “Our study adds to the evidence that needle exchange programs not only work but are cost-effective investments in the battle against HIV.
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