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Louisville Needle Exchange Exceeding Expectations, Interim Public Health Director Says

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Louisville's new needle exchange program has exceeded the expectations of the city's public health department, the agency's interim leader told Metro Council members on Thursday.

Since the needle exchange began June 10, 822 people have participated in the program, said Dr. Sarah Moyer, interim director of Metro Public Health. Of those, 40 percent have used the program multiple times. Fifty-five needle exchange participants have been referred to a drug treatment program.

"It's more participants than we expected. We budgeted for 500 for the whole year and after four months we're up to over 800. The words been getting out and we're preventing hepatitis C and HIV. In my eyes it's doing well," Moyer said.

She said 103 people have been tested for HIV through the program. The health department began testing for hepatitis C last month; so far 36 people have been tested. Of those who have been tested for hepatitis C, 40 percent received positive results.

She said 50 to 60 new participants seek services at the needle exchange every week. She said she expects this trend to continue through the year.

Moyer said most of the people using the needle exchange are Louisville residents, but the program has also been used by people from Southern Indiana, and Eastern and Western Kentucky.

She also said the population using the exchange is less insured than Louisville's general population. She said about 20 percent of participants are uninsured.

"Hopefully, people understand all the good the program is doing in preventing HIV and hepatitis C and getting people into treatment," Moyer said.

Louisville Metro Councilman David Yates, D-25, said he believes the outcome of the needle exchange has been positive.

"I think it will pay dividends in the end. I think we will see the best response," Yates said.

Metro Public Health and Volunteers of America will announce the first outreach site next week. The site will be located in Council District 1, which covers parts of Louisville's West End. Moyer said the goal of the mobile unit will be to visit a different neighborhood every week.