Country’s First Syringe Vending Machines Are Coming To Vegas

By Victoria Kim 04/18/17

The vending machines will also dispense kits for safe sex, cleaning wounds and safely disposing used syringes.

Two syringe vending machines on display.
Two syringe vending machines on display. Photo via YouTube

Public health officials in Nevada are rolling out a new harm reduction initiative next month: vending machines that will dispense clean syringes to people who inject drugs.

The vending machines will be available by the end of May at three locations in Las Vegas: Trac-B Exchange, Aid for AIDS Nevada, and Community Counseling Center. The idea is to reduce the spread of blood-borne infections like HIV and hepatitis, which can be a problem amongst intravenous drug users who don’t have access to clean needles.

“Having access to clean syringes is a harm reduction approach that’s going to allow people to protect themselves against getting communicable diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C,” said Chelsi Cheatom, program manager for Trac-B Exchange.

According to public health officials, there are at least 5,800 active IV drug users in Clark County, where Las Vegas is. And nearly 1 in 10 new HIV cases in the county have been traced to IV drug use.

Individuals can receive up to two harm reduction kits per week, by registering at any of the three Las Vegas locations, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In addition to clean syringes, the vending machines will dispense a range of harm reduction tools including kits for safe sex, cleaning wounds and safely disposing used syringes.

A case manager will be on hand to assist people in need of the harm reduction tools, and in some cases will even connect them to treatment services, said Patrick Bozarth, CEO of the Community Counseling Center.

By not asking for any personal identifying information upon registering for access to the vending machines, the program’s creators hope to draw in more people who may normally avoid seeking help for drug use or other behavior that’s stigmatized by mainstream society.

The privately funded project is a collaboration between the Southern Nevada Health District, Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society, and Trac-B Exchange.

A 2016 report put together by the Harm Reduction Coalition drew from the experience of supervised injection facilities (SIFs) operating in Frankfurt, Sydney, and Vancouver.

It concluded with a list of five key takeaways, as reported by The Fix’s Zachary Siegel:

    1. People who use SIFs take better care of themselves, reduce or eliminate their needle sharing, use their drugs more safely, and ultimately reduce their drug use.
    2. SIF participants gain access to other medical and social services and entry into drug treatment.
    3. There has not been a single overdose death in any of these programs over many years of operation and many thousands of supervised injections.
    4. SIFs do not increase drug use in the area, nor do they encourage young people to initiate drug use.
    5. Crime and public nuisance decrease in the areas around these programs.
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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr