Syringe Trade and Education Program of TN is being initiated and operated by Chattanooga CARES starting Monday to tackle the underlying community health concerns created by the opioid epidemic.
"The purpose behind Chattanooga CARES launching STEP TN is to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and other blood borne diseases, reduce needle stick injuries to law enforcement officers and other emergency personnel and encourage individuals who inject drugs to enroll in evidence-based treatment," officials said. "Since 2011, opioid injection drug use in Tennessee has increased 38 percent. Tennessee’s drug-related deaths have increased 40 percent. There was 364 percent increase in the number of cases of acute hepatitis C infection from 2006 to 2012 among persons aged =30 years. Hepatitis C infections among pregnant women nearly doubled from 2009-2014.
"A common myth is that syringe exchange programs encourage, enable or increase drug use, as well as crime. Research from the World Health Organization and American Medical Association, shows this is not true. In fact, many studies show that syringe exchange programs decrease drug use by connecting people to treatment. It is estimated that syringe exchange program participants are five times more likely to enter drug treatment than non-participants. Syringe service programs are proven to decrease the number of used syringes discarded in public places by almost 50 percent. Also, one-time use of syringes is the most effective way to limit the transmission of HIV among injection drug users (IDUs) by reducing HIV infection rates by 80 percent. In 2015, there were 3,600 HIV diagnoses among IDUs. About 30 percent IDUs under the age of 30 have Hepatitis C, while close to 90 percent of older IDUs have Hepatitis C. SSPs reduce new HIV and viral hepatitis infections by decreasing the sharing of syringes and other injection equipment."