June 28, 2002
Beginning Monday, July 1, 2002, Act 292 of the 2001 Hawaii
legislative session authorizes the sale of sterile syringes to persons
who may use them for injection of illicit drugs. The purpose of the new
law is to decrease transmission of HIV and other blood borne diseases
such as hepatitis, through the sharing of infected syringes.
The sale of sterile syringes through pharmacies and health care
providers is expected to complement Hawaii’s highly successful
sterile syringe exchange program. The U.S. Public Health Service
recommends that a new, sterile syringe be used for each injection to
eliminate the possibility of disease transmission. Hawaii's new syringe
access legislation makes this more possible.
Under this new law only licensed pharmacists and physicians and
their agents under their supervision are authorized to sell syringes.
Major national organizations such as the AMA, American Bar Association
and associations of pharmacists, state health officials and AIDS
directors have all come out in favor of expanded syringe access
efforts. At least half a dozen other states have similar laws that
permit pharmacy sales of syringes to injection drug users.
Hawaii has managed to keep transmission of HIV due to sharing of
used syringes much lower than most states due to the early and
widespread implementation of the syringe exchange program. However, new
HIV infections occur and hepatitis C continues to spread.
Peter Whiticar, Chief of the STD/AIDS Prevention Branch who worked
with a task force of state and community agencies in support of the law
said, "The new law permits an effective prevention intervention with
little or no cost to the public purse. In the longer term fewer
infections mean lower health care costs and less human suffering."
The law requires the Department of Health to produce and make
available for distribution written educational materials about
prevention of blood-borne diseases, HIV counseling and testing, drug
treatment, access to the syringe exchange program and safe disposal of
used syringes. These materials have been developed specifically for
Hawaii and are now being distributed to pharmacies for consumers.
Act 262 can be viewed on the Internet at: www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2001/bills/hb646_cd1_.htm
A hard copy can be obtained by calling 808-733-9010.
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