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North Carolina legalizes clean needle exchanges

Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation on Monday giving local governments authority to establish clean needle exchange programs (Photo credit: WLOS)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Starting Oct. 1, clean needle exchange programs will become legal in North Carolina.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation on Monday giving local governments authority to establish clean needle exchange programs.

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The legislation will help prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other diseases that are often transmitted by dirty or used needles. The executive director of the Western North Carolina Aids Project, WNCAP, applauds state lawmakers for passing the law. He says it's a big step in improving public health.

"It's a good bill. It's a good bill. There is no such thing as perfect legislation," Jeff Bachar, WNCAP executive director said. "It allows us to operate legally and it reduces a lot of the stigma so we will have more people that need to come in can do so without feeling so stigmatized."

Asheville's needle exchange program hands out between 10,000 and 12,000 syringes a week at its location in East Asheville. The legislation does not however come with any financial backing. That means no public dollars will be used to pay for supplies such as syringes, cotton and other materials. However, Bachar says the legislation will allow the program to expand to other locations, form partnerships and advertise it's services.

"It's a huge opportunity to advertise more and open up sites across 18 counties and have it less centralized. This one would still stay open but through our partnerships and collaborations around the region we will have other sites pop up," Bachar said.


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