'Horrible stuff': New problems with dirty needles in Eugene

EUGENE, Ore. - A drop in funding forced the HIV Alliance to make cuts to the needle exchange program in Eugene.

Now the nonprofit fears more dirty syringes will end up on the streets.

The Alliance's One for One Program has delivered on its name for years--giving one clean needle in exchange for a used one without limit. But now the organization said they can only give 100 clean syringes to each program participant, per visit.

"They might not be safely discarding them because there is no incentive for them to bring them into us," said program director Renee Yandel at the HIV Alliance in Eugene on Friday.

Sara Burchell said her son has found multiple dirty needles on their block in Eugene in the past month.

"Who knows what kind of horrible stuff could have come if he had stepped on it," she said.

Yandel said individuals can contract HIV and hepatitis C virus if pricked by an infected syringe. She added that the risk of spreading hepatitis C is much greater than HIV because the virus can live in a used syringe for days.

After her son found the second used syringe on their block, Burchell called the sheriff's office. They referred her to the HIV Alliance for help.

Yandel said volunteers make weekly pickups of improperly discarded syringes.

"We pick those up with the grabber, put them in the sharps container, and take them for disposal," she said.

But this year, one of HIV Alliance's key contributors donated 30 percent less money to the organization.

As a result, Yandel said they've had to cut back on the needle exchange program they run.

Since HIV Alliance is taking in fewer used syringes, more are ending up where they don't belong.

If you find used syringes in your community, the HIV Alliance said you can call them for help with safe disposal: (541) 342-5088.

The HIV Alliance is located at 1966 Garden Ave. in Eugene.