Southern Nevada will soon become the first place to have vending machines that dispense free needles to drug addicts. 

It’s part of an effort to reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C. The vending machines were unveiled Wednesday.

They look just like any other vending machine, except no money is required. If someone pushes a button, a kit drops.

Inside the kit, there’s a box of 10 syringes, a rubber tourniquet, a needle disposal container for the used needles, alcohol swabs and band aids, as well as an information sheet about where you can find treatment.”

Doctor Jerry Cade co-founded University Medical Center’s HIV clinic and served on President Clinton’s HIV advisory council. He’s been been talking about safe needle exchange for 30 years.

“No, I didn’t even envision the vending machines, I think this is a great idea, I never thought about doing it that way,” said Dr. Cade.

There have been independent needle exchange programs in the valley but this is the first to collaborate with the Southern Nevada Health District.  

One in 10 HIV diagnoses occur in IV drug users.

The people behind this say providing free clean needles will reduce the temptation to spread infection by sharing dirty needles.  

These vending machines, which also dispense wound care and safe sex kits, will be placed at three locations around the valley.

“It’s going to be safe, it’s going to be secure, they ‘re going to be able to access the services, and hopefully go into recovery testing and better their lives,” said Antioco Carrillo, AFAN.

“There’s zero downside and lots of pluses,” Dr. Cade said.

Of course the argument against free needle exchange programs is that by providing free needles it encourages drug abuse.

Dr. Cade says there are no legitimate studies to support that notion.

The three machines, which are paid for by private donations, will be located at AFAN, the Community Counseling Center and Trac-B on W. Charleston Boulevard.