Harm Reduction provides the lowest possible threshold services in order to meet the individual ‘where they’re’ at any given moment. Our Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) operates at four of our sites throughout Queens.
We not only provide sterile syringes, we also offer condoms, hygiene kits, a friendly ear and referrals to other services. We are often the first step in an active user’s re-engagement with care services.
What is Syringe Exchange?
Syringe Exchange Programs are meant to help stop the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other illnesses that are passed through blood. People who share needles are at risk of spreading or catching these illnesses. When HIV or Hepatitis C invade a community, everyone can be affected, not just those who share needles. Syringe Exchange is meant to protect people who use needles, and also their kids, husbands, wives, sexual partners, and others. We do this by giving out safe, sterile needles and other injection equipment, and by collecting used needles for proper disposal. Our goal is to make it possible for everyone who injects to use brand new equipment every time they inject.
We also focus on the serving HIV infected individual with a history of alcohol abuse or illicit drug use. Services include group and individual counseling, acupuncture, massage and case management. Educational seminars focus on substance abuse, medical, financial, legal and lifestyle issues in order to empower the person to take control of her or his own life. Our active programs of social and recreational activities allow participants to enjoy safe activities with other HIV infected persons and thus break through walls of loneliness and depression.
Some Common Questions:
Q. How does the program work?
A. Participants bring used syringes to the program, and trade them for clean ones. Each person who uses the service is issued an anonymous ID card to show that they can carry used syringes legally. We do not ask for the individual’s name, address, or any other identifying information, as services are anonymous. Each person gets a unique code instead. We are available five days a week and no appointments are needed. When people show up, they can sit for a while, have some coffee, and talk with our staff, if they like. They can get condoms, female condoms, and other safer sex and safer injection supplies. We also provide a space at some of sites where participants can participate in activities including groups, case management (assistance finding food, shelter) or other things they might need. We also provide information about how to keep safe from overdose, HIV, abscesses, and other health problems.
Q. Who can use the program?
A. Anyone who uses syringes can use the syringe exchange. That includes people who are diabetic and use injection supplies, people who inject hormones, and anyone else who uses syringes, in addition to people who inject street drugs.
Q. Doesn’t giving people clean needles encourage them to use drugs?
A. For some people, taking care of their health by using sterile syringes is one step in the direction of reducing or stopping the use of drugs. Those people can find help through syringe exchange programs, which often provide counseling, support, and help getting into drug treatment. There are other people who choose to not stop using drugs. This is a reality, no matter how much we would like things to be different. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to take care of their health and live as safely as possible, and this the main reason that we provide sterile syringes. There have been many studies that examine syringe exchange programs and none of these studies has shown evidence that syringe exchange increased drug use.
Q. Will a syringe exchange in my neighborhood bring a lot of needles into the streets?
A. Syringe exchange also helps by reducing the possibility of used syringes being discarded inappropriately. If you find syringes in the street, call us! We will collect discarded syringes so that they can be disposed of safely. Also, when someone can trade in their used needles for brand new clean ones, he or she is more likely to keep them instead of throwing them away. This makes the neighborhood safer for everyone.
Q. Is it legal to give out syringes?
A. Yes, it is legal for authorized programs to distribute syringes. Since 1992, New York State has allowed syringe exchange. Each group that wants to start offering the service must be approved through a rigorous process that involves consulting with people in the neighborhood to create a plan that works for everyone. Once the plan is approved and put into action, a syringe exchange is carefully monitored by the New York State Department of Health/AIDS Institute, to assure that safety standards are being met by all programs. It is also legal for certain registered pharmacies to sell a limited number of syringes to anyone over 18.
ACQC operates SEP services at four locations, three of which are provided on a mobile van. Click below for locations and hours.
The 24 hour number to reach help at ACQC’s Harm Reduction / Syringe Exchange Program is (917) 670-5687.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT US IF YOU HAVE ANY FURTHER QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS.
(718) 896-2500 ext. 2564