Damien Center launches Safe Syringe exchange, new mobile clinic

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Damien Center is working with the Marion County Public Health Department to launch its first Safe Syringe exchange program and add a new mobile clinic to serve the community.

Indiana’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization is launching the program to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C in Marion County.

Such programs are associated with a 50% reduction in HIV and hepatitis C incidence.

“We were very excited to join the Marion County Health Dept as part of the ending the epidemic campaign, said Alan Witchey, president and CEO of the Damien Center, “which is designed to end new HIV infections in Marion County within the next 10 years.”

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that new users of syringe exchange programs are five times as likely to enter drug treatment.

The CDC also found they are three times more likely to stop using drugs than people who don’t use the programs.

“This is going to bring such a critical resource for us in our efforts to eradicate HIV infection in our communities but also address our substance abuse issues,” said Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine.

The Damien Center also unveiled its new mobile clinic that will run three days a week for the program and other support services.

Along with providing sterile needles and syringes as part of the exchange program, the mobile clinic will also offer HIV and hepatitis C screenings, recovery coaching and referrals for treatment.

“This will allow us to go out into the community to see people where they are in the community,” said Witchey. “They won’t have to come here because our program so far has been people coming on-site to get support and services they need and now will be able to go to various different places in the community.”

The program is funded by a $95,000 matching grant from the Marion County Public Health Department.

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