BATAVIA, Ohio -- A syringe exchange program launches this week in Clermont County as part of an effort to stem a spike in HIV and hepatitis C cases.
Starting Thursday, the exchange will offer free services from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mercy Health's Clermont Hospital on 3000 Hospital Drive in Batavia.
Public health officials say the programs, which give IV drug users clean needles and offer a range of testing and medical services, are critical and proven to reduce the spread of life-threatening and costly infectious diseases. But not every community has welcomed the programs with open arms.
Leaders in Anderson Township are still considering whether to host a site, as well as communities in Northern Kentucky.
Clermont and Hamilton counties logged double digit spikes in new HIV and hepatitis cases in recent years, with 184 newly diagnosed HIV cases in Hamilton County last year alone. Northern Kentucky saw 37 new cases in 2017. The increase, officials say, is largely connected to the opioid crisis and growth in IV drug users.
In Clermont County, the exchange program will operate each Thursday. In addition to providing sterile syringes, the program will also offer testing and referral to medical treatment for HIV and hepatitis C.
The services are provided as part of the Exchange Project, which is operated by Hamilton County Public Health. The project already hosts syringe and testing services in Corryville, Mount Auburn, Northside and Middletown.