Scott County commissioners close successful syringe service program

Contact: Warren Gill,
(202) 599-8259

WASHINGTON — A little more than six years ago, Scott County in Indiana experienced one of the worst HIV outbreaks related to drug use in history. In response, the state allowed the county to open a syringe service program. These programs provide sterile supplies to people who inject drugs, while also providing a variety of other services, including HIV prevention and care.

By all reports, the program was successful. For example, according to Stat News, there was only one new case of HIV in 2020. Despite the successes, the Scott County Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 Wednesday to close the county’s syringe service program.

Jesse Milan Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United, responded to the closure saying, “Syringe service programs save lives. Syringe service programs prevent the spread of HIV. Syringe service programs are good for people who use drugs. Syringe service programs are good for communities. Despite the mountains of evidence demonstrating the truth of these statements, the Scott County Board of Supervisors has decided to make its community less safe by closing its syringe services program.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, syringe service programs “are an effective component of comprehensive community-based prevention and intervention programs.” The CDC goes on to cite copious research that show:

  • Syringe service programs prevent transmission of blood-borne infections, including HIV.
  • Syringe service programs help stop drug use.
  • Syringe service programs support public safety.

Drew Gibson, senior policy manager for HIV and drug user health at AIDS United, added, “We cannot end the HIV epidemic in the United States without support from syringe services programs. They’re also a key component to addressing the overdose epidemic and connecting people who use drugs to care.” The U.S. witnessed in 2020 the largest number of overdose deaths ever recorded.

“The people of Scott County deserve so much better than what today’s decision to close this SSP will give them. Today is a sad day for all of us who care about people who use drugs,” Gibson concluded.