The Illinois senate on Monday voted 30-24 in favor of a bill that would allow anyone in the state age 18 or older to buy hypodermic needles from a pharmacy without a prescription, in an effort to reduce needle sharing and HIV transmissions among injection-drug users, the Chicago Tribune reports. Under the proposed law a person could purchase up to 20 needles at a time from any pharmacy in the state. Pharmacies would be required to offer customers educational materials on drug treatment, safe syringe use, and safe ways to dispose of used needles. Illinois is currently one of only five states that require prescriptions to buy syringes.
"Some people use drugs no matter what," said Republican senator Steve Rauschenberger, a cosponsor of the bill. "What has been proven in other states is, if there is access to legally possess sterile needles, there is a reduced amount of hepatitis and HIV/AIDS in that population." Opponents argue that the measure would not decrease the spread of HIV and would only put more dirty needles on the streets. "Needles will be disposed of inappropriately, in which case you're going to find them sticking through garbage bags and in garbage bins," said Sen. Dale Righter.
The bill now moves to the state house, where another close vote is expected. Gov. Rod Blagojevich has said he will sign the measure if it reaches his desk.