Former councilman trying to get dirty needles off Palmer streets

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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) Dirty hypodermic needles have reportedly been found in the parks around town in Palmer, potentially spreading HIV and other diseases to anyone unlucky enough to get pricked. Now, the city is looking at how to clean up.

Former Palmer City Councilman Imran Chaudhry used to work with Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association's needle exchange.

“I saw the way that these people, that did have a good amount of used needles, would make it a point to come in and donate them, as opposed to just dropping them on the street,” Chaudhry said. “It was amazing to me.

Now, he's trying to get a similar program started in Palmer.

“My initial idea was to have Four A's come here, maybe on a weekly basis, and facilitate a place where people could exchange and collect new needles, in addition to HIV and Hep-C tests,” he said.

As his final act as a member of the Palmer City Council, Chaudhry proposed a discussion about needle exchanges and biohazard boxes around the city.

“If we can be the catalyst that provides clean needles to these users, or people that use needles, we're taking an extra step to help our community,” he said.

Critics of needle exchanges say they encourage drug use, but Four A's says many drug users would be using with or without clean needles.

“When we talked about this with our participants, we asked them 'what would you do to get clean needles if this program didn't exist?'” Said Four A’s Director of HIV Prevention & Education. “And over 80% of our participants said that they would even use dirty needles."

And getting dirty needles off the streets doesn't just help drug users.

“If we can prevent one person from stepping on a needle that has been contaminated with HIV, we've done our job," Chaudhry said.

Chaudhry's proposal to the city council was seconded by Councilwoman Sabrena Combs and is set to be discussed on the council's October 22nd agenda.

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