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Ting Bill to Prevent HIV/Hepatitis through Reforming Syringe Access

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – California pharmacists keep the choice to sell sterile syringes over the counter to adults without a prescription under legislation introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, in order to prevent leading causes for the transmission of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

“The facts are clear and undisputed,” said Ting.  “Allowing adults to purchase syringes from pharmacists saves lives by preventing the spread of deadly diseases.  Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists support this policy, which is why it is the law of the land in nearly every state.  It’s time to make this a permanent part of California’s public health strategy.”

Assembly Bill (AB) 1743 permanently gives pharmacists the choice to sell syringes to an adult without a prescription if the pharmacist meets uniform requirements for the provision of information and materials about safe syringe disposal, drug treatment access, and options for testing and treating HIV and hepatitis.  Absent Ting’s bill, at the end of this year, sterile syringe access will be gone in most of the state.  Pharmacists in 15 counties and 4 cities will maintain the ability to sell syringes over the counter, and needle exchange programs will operate only in 19 counties and 2 cities.

Sharing used syringes is the most common way hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread and the second most common cause of HIV and hepatitis B. 

“This bill is our chance for reason and compassion to prevail,” said Laura Thomas, Deputy State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.  “We must ensure that people who are at risk get the tools they need to avoid disease.  By allowing adults to buy sterile syringes, we can prevent the transmission of potentially deadly infections and reduce the financial burden of associated treatment at no cost to taxpayers.”

"We salute Assemblyman Ting for his leadership on this issue, which will help thousands of people throughout the state and reduce the burden of HIV and HCV on our public health system," said Neil Giuliano, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.  "As operator of one of the oldest and largest syringe access programs in the country, we know the significant impact that access to sterile syringes can have in preventing blood-borne illnesses like HIV and HCV among people in our community at high risk for infection."

From 2005-2010, a pilot program in 15 counties and 4 cities allowed pharmacists to sell syringes over the counter if the local government chose to be part of the pilot and the pharmacy first registered locally.  Research subsequently conducted by the California Department of Public Heath found no evidence of an increase in drug use or crime in the state as a whole or in areas that authorized syringe sales without a prescription.  It also found that the rate of syringe sharing among opt-in communities was lower than areas where syringes were not equally available.

Further information about safe syringe access is available through the Department’s website.

Contact: Anthony Matthews (Ting), tel. (916) 319-2019,