Texas needle-exchange programs would be protected from prosecution under legislation recently approved by the state Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
The Houston Chronicle reported March 3 that the committee voted 5-1 in favor of the bill, which would stop district attorneys from prosecuting programs that have been approved by the state. That includes a pilot program operating in Bexar County, where the local DA has threatened to file criminal charges against anyone in possession of drug paraphernalia.
“There has been much critical evidence to show that [needle-exchange programs in other states] decreases HIV and hepatitis in those communities,” said state Sen. Robert Deuell,,who introduced the bill. “Which alleviates a lot of human suffering, but it also saves states money because the people who contract HIV and hepatitis, more often than not, end up having state programs or services.”
Currently, Texas is the only state in the U.S. that still prohibits all needle-exchange programs. The Texas Department of State Health Services estimated that 100 new cases of HIV would be prevented during the first year that a syringe-exchange program in implemented.