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Dispensing Needles Said to Keep Neighborhoods Clean
  Associated Press
July 31
Anne T. Denogean
Tucson's Life Point needle-exchange program is among the most comprehensive of the 171 exchanges operating nationwide. With full support of local law enforcement and the community, the Pima County program has served 27,664 clients and distributed 596,320 syringes since it began in 1996. In that time, the county's percentage of new HIV/AIDS cases related to IV drug use dropped from 21 percent to 16 percent, said Ana "Bertie" Lozano, HIV/STD program manager for Pima County.
The health department operates the Life Point van on Tuesday and Friday mornings; the exact locations are unpublicized. Taking a practical approach, nurses Mary Colla and Debbie Schaller figure that drug users will find the van through word-of-mouth just as they find drugs, said Lozano. Drug users can exchange needles and receive alcohol swabs, antibiotic ointments, condoms and hygiene packages, and other supplies used for preparing drugs for injection.
HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis and tuberculosis tests are available for clients. Life Point also gives vaccinations for hepatitis A and B and tetanus. Workers give referrals for mental health care and drug addiction treatment. If a client requests it, a detoxification bed is usually available on the same day, said Lozano. In the program's seven years, more than 2,000 clients have been referred for drug treatment.
Since distributing materials for the injection of illegal drugs is a felony in Arizona, Life Point works under the approval of officials and law enforcement agencies of Pima County, the cities of Tucson and South Tucson, as well as the neighborhood associations where it sets up.
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