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Several people have showed up to the City Council member to back the clean-needle exchange program, stating that the clean-needle swap helps stop the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

James Dunford, the city’s medical director, presented the council with a number of findings that have been made nationally and locally. You can view Sandag’s study of the city’s program, which ran from 2002 to 2005, here.

North Park resident Joel Harrison, who noted that he lives one block from the program’s site, said that the program is time-tested and backed by studies that show that the program reduces the spread of disease and does not spur new drug users.

“People have impression that this untested program and that our community is becoming guinea pig,” Harrison said.

Mike Freeman told the council that the clean-needle exchange program offered to help him when he used heroin as recent as 16 months ago.

“The only people who reached out and wanted to help me were the needle-exchange people,” Freeman said. “Not a lot of people who wanted to reach out and help heroin addicts. We were the type of people who people don’t want to look at.”

Mike Simonson, a spokesman for the Rural/Metro, the company that provides paramedics for the city, said that the removal of used needles off the streets protects medical workers.

“We believe this program can and will eliminate the number of dirty syringes,” he said.

Leslie Wade, the executive director of the East Village Association, said the program worked while located in East Village when it was largely industrial, but said she was concerned with the location now that a new park is nearby.

The redevelopment of East Village has generated new residents there who “will probably have some legitimate concerns about the location,” she said.

In addition to East Village, the program is also held in North Park. Each location houses the program for three hours a week.

Scroll down to read the comments of the program’s foes.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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