JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The syringe exchange program in Juneau will shut down at the end of the year unless it can secure additional funding, officials said.
The Alaskan Aids Assistance Association office in downtown Juneau regularly serves more than 100 people, seeking to cut down on the risk of communicable diseases that can spread through the reuse and sharing of needles, the Juneau Empire reported this week.
Federal funding for syringe exchanges and other HIV prevention programs has shifted to areas where more people are affected by the disease, said Heather Davis, the organization’s executive director. Alaska programs have received less funding, she said, noting the state has been defined as “a low-incident” HIV area.
The organization needs to raise $15,000 to stay open through the end of the fiscal year in June, said Melissa Griffiths, a Southeast Advisory Board member. It has already raised more than $8,000 as of last week through crowdfunding.
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“Getting grants, of course, is the best way to do it,” Davis said, “because you can’t depend on donors every year and you have to keep an office sustainable, so we’re trying to find sustainable sources.”
Without the program, it will be harder for people to acquire clean syringes, possibly leading to more cases of hepatitis C and HIV. In addition to swapping syringes, the organization helps connect people with treatment programs.
“It’s one step at a time. Maybe the first step is just making sure they’re as safe and healthy as possible while they’re using, but then then next step might be seeking other services to actually get treatment and make changes in their lives,” Griffiths said.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com