CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The Free Clinic of Cleveland's Syringe Exchange Program is seeing more clients than ever before, and those clients are typically white, suburbanite ages 18 to 25.
Cleveland has the only needle exchange program in the state north of Columbus, and for a long time was the only one in the state.
The needle exchange program was started in 1995 as a response to growing numbers of HIV infections. In 1994, according to the Cleveland Department of Public Health, 18 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Cleveland were found in intravenous drug users.
The program aims not to enable addicts, but to protect those who use drugs from communicable diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C, and to protect everyone else from disease and from discarded dirty needles.
Last year, the program exchanged its highest number of needles, 477,000, from nearly 5,000 different people, and the demand keeps growing.
Cleveland 19 rode along with the Free Clinic on their needle exchange van to see how their staff works and who comes to exchange needles. The story is tonight at 11 p.m.
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