TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A pilot program for syringe and needle exchanges in Miami-Dade County in an effort to curb the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis has received approval from a House subcommittee.

The proposal (HB 735) originally called for a statewide exchange program but was scaled back to a pilot in Miami-Dade.

In such programs, intravenous drug users swap used needles and syringes for clean needles and syringes. Supporters say exchanges help prevent the spread of diseases among drug users and also help protect emergency workers and others from inadvertently coming into contact with contaminated needles and syringes.

The House Health Quality Subcommittee voted unanimously to approve the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.

A group of University of Miami medical students, along with organizations such as the Florida Medical Association, backed the measure Wednesday.

Rep. Patrick Rooney, R-West Palm Beach, said he would support a statewide exchange program.

“I really view this as a safety issue,” Rooney said.

The Florida Department of Health has not taken a stance.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report


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