‘I’ve had to reuse syringes before’: Student organization pushes for on-campus syringe program | New

As someone who injects himself with medication every week, August Steinkamp, ​​a senior in microbiology, knows the importance of needle safety.

“I’ve had to reuse syringes before,” Steinkamp said. “This is annoying.”

That’s why Steinkamp used his time as co-chair of the campus PrEP club, Be PrePared, to advocate for the creation of a syringe service program at the university. Although the idea has yet to catch on, Steinkamp hopes to use his final year as co-chair to implement a system for students to access clean syringes and other materials they may need. need to safely inject drugs or narcotics.

“I volunteered at the New Orleans LGBT Center, and the success that needle exchange program really showed,” he said.

PrEP, the drug regimen promoted by Steinkamp’s club, is an oral or injected method to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. Before Steinkamp became involved, the club helped the university gain access to free rapid HIV tests at the student health center. He said the group focuses on advocacy and reducing stigma around the disease.

“The more you grant access to these things, you’re not only helping the community, but also reducing stigma and educating people,” Steinkamp said.

Since intravenous drug use is the second leading cause of HIV, Steinkamp believes it’s critical to ensure that students who need it can access clean needles.

Gjvar Payne is the director of the Capitol Area Reentry Program, which runs the main needle exchange program in Baton Rouge. He said needle exchanges are not about promoting drug use, but about reducing harm and meeting people where they are.

“We don’t want people dying from something that we could have prevented,” Payne said. “We all know that people won’t stop injecting drugs because they can’t get sterile equipment.”

Steinkamp first approached the student health center about starting a needle exchange program in 2021. He said the center told him he wasn’t interested in starting a needle exchange service. because most HIV cases on campus were caused by high-risk sexual behavior, not drug use.

Michael Eberhard, director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion at the Student Health Center, said the university does not collect data on how HIV-positive students contracted the virus.

“I find it troubling that the program was shut down because of a lack of need if we have no way of understanding the need,” Steinkamp said. “It makes me doubt the efforts of the center to really protect the health of students.”

The Student Health Center has changed direction since Steinkamp’s last request. Julie Hupperich, the center’s executive director, said she’d be open to discussing the program with Be PrePared now, and she’s not sure why the idea was initially rejected.

“There are circumstances where the Student Health Center decides to partner with community agencies and make referrals rather than duplicate services,” Hupperich said.

CHS administers over a thousand HIV tests each year. Only a small number of these tests are positive.

Hupperich said the Student Health Center administers most of these, but sends about 100 to another lab.

“There are typically one to three new positive cases each year,” Hupperich said.

Steinkamp said it’s important to remember that access to clean needles isn’t just about HIV or drug use.

“It’s also about things like hepatitis,” Steinkamp said. “Students who have diabetes and use insulin and students who take hormones use needles. I felt some of that was being ignored.

Steinkamp said he doesn’t stand the rejection against CHS and hopes to work with them on it in the current year.

“I don’t think the Student Health Center intentionally limits access to these resources,” Steinkamp said. “I believe with a little more communication, that’s something they would be willing to do.”

Previous LGBTQ groups boycott Mayor Adams' Pride Month event over 'anti-gay hires'
Next Louisiana Watercolor Society Artists to Exhibit at Oak Knoll | Lifestyles