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Lexington Needle Exchange Comes Online Friday

Lexington health officials are about to find out whether months of planning and preparation for the city’s needle exchange program will produce results.

The Fayette County Health Dept. is starting small – limiting hours to 1:30 to 4 PM every Friday starting this week at the department’s Newtown Pike location.

One of the healthcare workers who will be guiding drug users through the process is John Moses. When it comes to creating a safe, reassuring atmosphere for those stepping through the door, he says some of the groundwork has already been laid.

"Most of us that have been working in the field of HIV and STDs have been working with these individuals for years and have already built that trust," he explains. "So we expect that a lot of the drug users that will come in already trust the program."

But the process is a new one - both for participants and the city. And while the goals are to stop the spread of blood-borne illnesses and give drugs users a chance to opt for testing and treatment, Fayette Health Commissioner Dr. Rice Leach says keeping the program anonymous and confidential is crucial.

"We were told by the people we were trying to serve 'you start making requirements and we're not going to show up,' so we're going to make available but not require [testing and treatment]," says Fayette Health Commissioner Dr. Rice Leach.

According to the most recent data, HIV cases in the Bluegrass region jumped from 75 in 2011 to 107 in 2013 while per capita rates of Hepatitis C in Kentucky are the worst in the nation.

The Kentucky General Assembly cleared the way for local communities to launch needle exchanges back in March as part of the 2015 anti-heroin bill.

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