The New Jersey assembly on Tuesday passed two bills aimed at helping injection drug users avoid HIV and hepatitis infections, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. The first bill, passed by a 32-28 vote, allows cities and towns to sponsor local needle exchange programs that are linked with hospitals, clinics, or health departments. The second bill, also approved by a 32-28 vote, will allow adults to purchase up to 10 hypodermic needles without a prescription from state pharmacies. The state currently prohibits over-the-counter sales of syringes. New Jersey is one of only two states that currently prohibit both needle exchange programs and over-the-counter sales of hypodermic needles. Supporters of the measures say they will help cut down on HIV infections among injection drug users, who account for about half of all the state's HIV cases. The state senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee was scheduled to hear the bills next week and a full senate vote could occur before the end of the month. Gov. James McGreevey has promised to sign both bills.
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