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Science Series presentation highlights local syringe exchange programs in Vermont

On September 27th, the Northeast Node’s Science Series welcomed Laura Byrne, Executive Director of the HIV/HCV Resource Center in Lebanon, NH, for a presentation entitled, “What’s the Point? Harm Reduction through Syringe Exchange in White River Junction and Springfield, VT.”

The HIV/HCV Resource Center is an AIDS service organization that runs two syringe exchange programs in rural Vermont. Syringe exchange programs are more than just places to exchange used needles for new ones; the two programs in Vermont offer a variety of additional services, such as case management, HIV/HCV testing, risk reduction counseling for people living with HIV and people who use injection drugs, naloxone, and referrals to substance use disorder treatment and other services. Both syringe exchange programs are embedded in medical clinics, allowing for onsite care and confidentiality, but stigma is still a barrier to accessing services. So far in 2018, fentanyl has been the number one substance of use reported by clients of both programs; many also report that they intentionally seek out illicitly manufactured fentanyl because of its potency, a similar finding from a recent study of active opioid users living in New Hampshire.  These two syringe exchange programs in rural Vermont have seen a drastic increase in methamphetamine, bath salts, and cocaine use in the past two years. The Resource Center has also seen an increase in HCV infections, and educates clients on the risks of re-infection regardless of whether they share needles, as the virus can live in water for three weeks, on surfaces for six weeks, and in the barrel of a syringe for more than two months.

For more information on these syringe service programs in White River Junction and Springfield, Vermont, you can watch this Science Series presentation here.