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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498

Date: February 29, 2012


WILMINGTON, DE (Feb. 28, 2012) - February marks the fifth anniversary of Delaware's needle exchange program in the City of Wilmington, managed by the Division of Public Health (DPH), in partnership with Brandywine Counseling and Community Services. The program, recognized nationally as a model for its coordination with law enforcement, has also surpassed the guidelines for cost effective HIV testing programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This program is an excellent example of putting prevention practices to work," said Rita Landgraf, Secretary of Delaware Health and Social Services. "Needle exchange is an important method of breaking the cycle of HIV transmission."

"Public Health is so pleased to have partnered with Basha Silverman and the team at Brandywine Counseling and Community Services these past five years to combat HIV transmission in the at-risk community," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "I am so grateful for their commitment and support of the program. Its success is closely tied to the strong community partnerships both with the substance treatment community and law enforcement."

The goal of the program is both to reduce HIV transmission and provide a link for drug users to addiction programs. Delaware's needle exchange program is the only one in the nation that is operated by a substance abuse treatment agency, providing a seamless transition into treatment for individuals to get clean. The program also provides pregnancy screening for those suffering addiction, providing rapid access to prenatal and HIV treatment to help prevent transmission from mother to baby.

"This program is about saving lives by keeping discarded needles off the streets, offering HIV testing and education, and linking addicts to substance abuse treatment," said state Sen. Margaret Rose Henry. "The success of the program is so encouraging and we are looking forward to another good five years."

"While we do not condone drug use, preventing and halting the spread of diseases such as HIV is a critical goal for all of us," said state Rep. Helene M. Keeley. "This program has done more than exchange needles. This is an important public health program that has resulted in hundreds enrolling in substance abuse treatment and getting tested for HIV. I hope we reach a day when there's no longer a need for such a program, but I'm proud of what we have accomplished through it."

Senator Henry and Representative Keeley sponsored the legislation that created the program currently offered in the City of Wilmington.

As of the end of 2011, the program:

The program also provides Wilmington police with needle-resistant gloves, collects confiscated syringes for disposal, and provides information at police training sessions. Several clients were referred to the program by police officers.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.