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Georgia House backs bill legalizing needle exchange programs

February 25, 2019 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia House has overwhelmingly passed a proposal that would legalize programs giving drug users clean needles in exchange for used ones.

The measure aims to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C infections among drug users who share needles. The House approved the bill 166-3 Monday. It now goes to the Senate.

Republican Rep. Houston Gaines of Athens, the bill’s main supporter, says people who use needle exchange programs are far more likely to enter treatment programs.

The needle-exchange proposal fits into part of a broader effort to deal with HIV and AIDS in Georgia. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Georgia fifth among U.S. states for new HIV infections in 2017.

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Gaines says treating a lifelong HIV patient can cost more than $400,000.