First-Year Results of the Needle-Syringe Program in Taoyuan

Chia-Ling Chen

2008 Vol.24 NO.2

Correspondence Author: Sheue-Rong Lin


After 2004, the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Taiwan made a large shift. Intravenous drug users (IDUs) now made up a majority group in the AIDS/HIV incidence, exceeding both the homosexual and heterosexual group. The WHO recommends that harm reduction programs should be implemented in order to decrease HIV transmission among IDUs.
This study reports the first-year result of the implementation of the Needle-Syringe Program (NSP) in Taoyuan (July 2006 to June 2007), including details about how the NSP is being implemented and the change in the
AIDS/HIV incidence before and after NSP.
In the beginning of the NSP, 169 questionnaires were collected from new methadone users for opinions or willingness for participating in the program. Hospitals or community pharmacies were ideal places for NSP but IDUs were very cautious to pick up clean needles/syringes or return used needles/syringes because of fear of being followed or arrested by police. On the aspects of actual implementation of NSP, community pharmacies, public health department/offices and IDU volunteers all performed very well in providing or receiving needles/syringes. Because police officials agreed not to follow or arrest IDUs in NSP areas, the rate of needles/syringes provided or received continued to increase. In June 2007, an average of 7,259 needles/syringes was given out each week and the receive rate was 45%. More importantly, the HIV incidence in IDU has started to drop. The average monthly cases of HIV+ in IDUs was 1.0 (January to June 2004), 11.0 (July to December 2004), 25.7 (January to June 2005), 40.8 (July to December 2005), 19.8 (January to June 2006), 15.8 (July to December 2006), and 9.2 (January to June 2007). Some new methadone users needed the service of drug counseling and psychological counseling, which is not available in most NSP location. We suggested that the service of drug counseling and psychological counseling should be added in some NSP or other harm reduction programs to assist IDUs in solving their emotional problems and to help them return to society.
Keywords: AIDS epidemic, intravenous drug users, needle-syringe program