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Criminalization of syringes contributes to HIV rates in North Carolina

In North Carolina, it is illegal to possess or buy a syringe without first having a doctor's prescription to do so, as Maggie Smith reports for the Triangulator. This is, of course, related to North Carolina's drug possession laws, where even possession of small amounts of drugs like cocaine or heroin are treated very seriously in terms of the criminal punishment.

In turn, the criminalization of syringes makes HIV-prevention programs (like syringe-exchange programs) illegal in North Carolina - forcing those with drug addictions to put themselves at significant risk of HIV infection from dirty needles.

As Smith reports, North Carolina is one of 10 states with the highest rates of HIV infection and deaths from AIDS. Syringe criminalization doesn't help the situation in North Carolina, as sharing of dirty syringes is the third highest cause of HIV infection throughout the nation.

Robert Childs of the N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition says, "In North Carolina, we have a criminal justice solution to a public health problem," referring to syringe criminalization due to laws against drug possession. "It's a big problem."

Source: Triangulator, "Study: N.C. among 10 states with highest HIV infection, death rates," by Maggie Smith, 12/8/11

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