Do you think this is a good idea or is this enabling the addict?

Las Vegas is betting on a new approach to combat rising heroin and HIV rates: vending machines of clean needles.

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But the syringe exchange vending machines, a first in the United States, aren’t open to just anyone walking by. They are accessible to clients of Trac-B Exchange, a program run by the Las Vegas Hard Reduction Center.

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And the machines don’t take money. Instead, drug users scan a card and enter a unique ID number in order to vend one of the colorfully gift-wrapped boxes inside.

“This is a harm reduction approach,” said Chelsi Cheatom, program manager for Trac-B Exchange, in an interview with NBC Las Vegas affiliate KSNV. “People are already exchanging in these behaviors, and 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 of harm.”

The center worked in collaboration with the Southern Nevada Health District and the Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society (NARES) to install the new machines, which will be available at three different locations by the end of May. Each client will be limited to two kits a week; each box contains syringes, alcohol wipes, safe sex supplies, and a sharps disposal box.

“Providing clean needles and supplies is a proven method for limiting disease transmission in a community,” said Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Health Officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, in a statement Wednesday.

Nevada is the first U.S. state to launch a vending machine program for clean syringes, but the vending machine model has been in use for several years in Puerto Rico, Europe, and Australia.

In 2014, a harm-reduction group installed crack pipe vending machines in Vancouver, Canada. But that program operated differently, with full access to anyone for just a quarter.

Read more: NBC


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