Community activism can be important in shaping public health policies. For example, political pressure and direct action from grassroots activists have been central to the formation of syringe exchange programs (SEPs) in the United States.
We explored why SEPs are present in some localities but not others, hypothesizing that programs are unevenly distributed across geographic areas as a result of political, socioeconomic, and organizational characteristics of localities, including needs, resources, and local opposition. We examined the effects of these factors on whether SEPs were present in different US metropolitan statistical areas in 2000.
Predictors of the presence of an SEP included percentage of the population with a college education, the existence of local AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) chapters, and the percentage of men who have sex with men in the population. Need was not a predictor.