CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey has become the last state where intravenous drug users can legally get clean needles, but two of the state's three needle exchanges are struggling to get clients.
A lack of funding, winter weather, remote locations and a mistrust by drug users are all making it tough for the exchanges to reach clients.
One program in Camden distributes needles out of the back of a blue van that sets up Tuesday afternoons near an overgrown vacant lot in an industrial waterfront section of the city, where bottles of all types, trash, condoms and clothing are strewn.
Officials say they would rather have addicts congregating there than in the more visible downtown area. Most of the pedestrians are prostitutes, including some who are among about 15 clients at the needle exchange.
A health education center's motor home, where health workers draw blood for hepatitis tests, give instant HIV tests, and hand out snacks, blankets and condoms, is parked next to the van on Tuesday afternoons. The state government put $10 million toward drug treatment as part of the law that allowed needle exchanges, but didn't fund the needle exchange programs.
"All the programs in New Jersey are operating on a shoestring," said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. But she said the exchanges are nonetheless promising, despite their modest starts.
New Jersey is believed to have tens of thousands of IV drug users, but only about 200 are enrolled so far in the three existing exchanges.