Syringe Services Programs’ Role in Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. Why We Cannot Do It Without Them

Dita Broz, Neal Carnes, Johanna Chapin-Bardales, Don C. Des Jarlais, Senad Handanagic, Christopher M. Jones, R. Paul McClung, Alice K. Asher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diagnoses of HIV among people who inject drugs have increased in the U.S. during 2014–2018 for the first time in 2 decades, and multiple HIV outbreaks have been detected among people who inject drugs since 2015. These epidemiologic trends pose a significant concern for achieving goals of the federal initiative for Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. Syringe services programs are cost effective, safe, and highly effective in reducing HIV transmission and are an essential component of a comprehensive, integrated approach to addressing these concerns. Yet, geographic coverage of these programs remains limited in the U.S., and many jurisdictions continue to have laws and policies that limit or disallow syringe services programs. An in-depth literature review was conducted on the role of syringe services programs in the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative. Empirical and model-based evidence consistently shows that syringe services programs have the highest impact in HIV prevention when combined with access to medications for substance use disorder and antiretroviral therapy. Their effectiveness is further maximized when they provide services without restrictions and include proven and innovative strategies to expand access to harm-reduction and clinical services (e.g., peer outreach, telehealth). Increasing geographic and service coverage of syringe services programs requires strong and sustainable policy, funding, and community support and will need to address new challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Syringe services programs have a key role in all 4 Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative strategies—Prevent, Diagnose, Treat, and Respond—and thus are instrumental to its success in preventing disease and saving lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S118-S129
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number5 Suppl 1
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • COVID-19
  • HIV Infections/drug therapy
  • Harm Reduction
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous/complications
  • Syringes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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