Needle exchange programs have been created as a means of reducing the transmission of HIV and other blood borne diseases such as Hepatitis C. The fact for this vulnerable portion of the population is that they share needles simply because they do not have the financial or legal means of procuring them. The Center for Disease control describes the purpose of "Syringe exchange programs (SEPs) is to provide free sterile syringes and collect used syringes from injection-drug users (IDUs) to reduce transmission of blood-borne pathogens, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus (HCV)." In addition to reducing disease transmission, syringe exchange centers provide services to promote harm reduction within the population. .
Despite medical advocacy, there is a large section of the population that negatively regards SEPs as a decriminalization of drug policy. Those that disagree with SEPs feel that these programs should not exist or be paid for with public funds. Many feel that drug users should be punished to prevent drug use. People who are against SEPs argue that the threat of arrest and lack of needle resources will motivate users to quit. This huge misconception about the issue is the basis of public controversy and it undermines the support this issue needs in the larger population. It is important to keep in mind that whether a program condones or prevents drug use, they're helping the fight against HIV and STD's. SEPs take no position on drug policy. These programs are in place solely for the purpose of reducing deadly infections within the population. However, The American Journal on Public Health has stated that, "Studies on behalf of the US government conducted by the National Commission on AIDS, the University of California and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Academy of Science, and the Office of Technology Assessment all concluded that syringe prescription and drug paraphernalia laws should be overturned or modified to allow IDUs (Intravenous Drug Users) to purchase, possess, and exchange sterile syringes.