Las Vegas has become the first city in the U.S. to offer clean needles in vending machines, according to CBS News affiliate KLAS. The city hopes that in doing so, it will help reduce the transmission of infections such as HIV and hepatitis C, which can be transmitted through shared needles.
"There's zero downside and lots of pluses," Jerry Cade, MD, co-founder of the HIV clinic at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, told KLAS.
The vending machines don't require any money — anyone can press a button, and the machine will dispense a kit containing a box of 10 syringes, a rubber tourniquet, a needle disposal container for the used needles, alcohol swabs and band aids, as well as an information sheet on where to find treatment.
Though Dr. Kade told KLAS that he "didn't even envision the vending machines" when it came to safe needle exchange, he thinks it's a "great idea."
"It's going to be safe, it's going to be secure, they 're going to be able to access the services, and hopefully go into recovery testing and better their lives," Antioco Carrillo of Aid for AIDs Nevada (AFAN), an organization that provides support for those living with AIDS, told KLAS.
Though the move is sure to be controversial, advocates say that it's a way to reduce risk of further harm.
"This is a harm-reduction approach," Chelsi Cheatom, program manager of Trac-B Exchange, a harm reduction center, told KSNV-TV. “Anytime someone’s engaging in a behavior that could cause them some potential health side effects, we want to encourage them to reduce their risk.”
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, three machines will be available in central Las Vegas by the at the end of May, one of which will be located at the AFAN center. Users will have to register to use the machines, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports, though personal information will not be required.