FeatureEvidence in Action

Politics vs. data on needle swaps

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Science  10 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 565
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6325.565

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Summary

After Hungary's conservative Fidesz party took power in 2010, it began cutting funding for needle exchange programs, which aim to prevent the spread of blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis among users of heroin and other injectable drugs. Study after study has shown that giving drug users clean needles, and collecting dirty ones, can be a cost-effective way of preventing disease and death and doesn't increase drug use or related crime. But the evidence often loses out to squeamish politicians and public misperceptions. So it was in Hungary, where they have forced the closure of the nation's two largest programs. The move will likely lead to "a public health disaster," researchers say.