In order to address the issue of disease spread, Las Vegas authorities are set to install vending machines that will sell clean equipment, so that drug users can get what they need to use drugs more safely, no questions asked.
"Vending machines are not born with a bias," said Rick Reich, a program director from Trac-B Exchange, one of the participants of the program. The other two are Southern Nevada Health District and the Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society.
"It doesn't have a personality and doesn't care how you look when you approach it," Reich explained.
Three machines will be installed in the city, authorities say, one of them inside a Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada facility, to allow some drug users to come into contact with trained counselors if they decide they wanted to get help. The center's employees have received additional training to be ready for potential patients, the executive director of the facility told Los Angeles Times.
All of the machines will work in a fashion similar to that of food vending or movie rental machines, but they will only be available during working hours at the facilities where they are installed. In order to use one, a user will have to fill out a form and obtain an eight-digit identification number to allow for tracking while preserving user confidentiality.
Unauthorized needle and syringe possession was outlawed in Nevada until four years ago, when the state legislature repealed the ban in 2013.
Nevada will not be the first to try out the needle vending machines. There are dozens of similar machines installed across Europe, with about 250 reported in use in France alone back in 2003.
Until now, many US states have needle exchange programs, where used syringes can be traded in for new, sterile ones for free. These programs, often combined with providing drug users with information about treatment on the spot, have proven their effectiveness, reducing the disease spread considerably among intravenous drug users.