AP PHOTOS: Clean needles provided to Colombia heroin users

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AP PHOTOS: Clean needles provided to Colombia heroin users
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, a heroin addict disposes of used syringes before receiving a kit with a new ones in Dosquebradas, Colombia. Faced with a dramatic rise in drug consumption, Colombiaâs Health Ministry hopes to replicate the needle exchange program in other cities such as Bogota and Medellin. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, Juan Carlos injects heroin into his arm after receiving a kit with clean syringes from social workers from the Cambie program in Dosquebradas, Colombia. Social workers of the program supported by the Open Society Foundation and government agencies tour the streets of the town every night in search of heroin addicts to swap out their used syringes so they donât end passing from arm to arm, increasing the risk of transmitting HIV or hepatitis. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, a drug addict prepares shoot up heroin after receiving a kit including a spoon, a rubber tube, cotton, sterilized water and clean syringes distributed by a program sponsored by the Open Society Foundation and government agencies in Dosquebradas, Colombia. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, a heroin addict disposes of used syringes before receiving a kit with a new ones in Dosquebradas, Colombia. Faced with a dramatic rise in drug consumption, Colombiaâs Health Ministry hopes to replicate the needle exchange program in other cities such as Bogota and Medellin. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, Maria Isabel Velazquez, a social worker from the Cambie program, sits at the back of the vehicle she drives around every night looking for heroin addicts in Dosquebradas, Colombia. The group, comprised of recovering addicts, also tests illicit drugs for their purity so junkies can see what dangerous adulterants theyâre consuming. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, Juan Carlos prepares to shoot up with heroin after receiving a kit with clean syringes from social workers the Cambie program in Dosquebradas, Colombia. Colombia is one of only two heroin producers in the Western Hemisphere and drug consumption in the country is rising fast. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, used syringes sit in a bin after being disposed by heroin addicts in exchange for a kit containing new ones in Dosquebradas, Colombia. Here, programs for users have received scant support compared to the billions of dollars spent pursuing powerful drug cartels. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, Wilson Pineda, 39, prepares to shoot up heroin after receiving a kit with a rubber tube and clean syringes from social workers in Dosquebradas, Colombia. Pineda said heâs been shooting up heroin for the past three years and that he periodically swaps used syringes for clean ones distributed for free by social workers. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, drug addicts claim kits containing clean syringes from social workers from the Cambie program in Dosquebradas, Colombia. Every night workers of the program sponsored by the Open Society Foundation and government agencies drive around areas of the town were drug addicts regularly meet to hand out the kits in exchange for used syringes. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 photo, drug addicts receive kits including a rubber tube and new syringes in Dosquebradas, Colombia. The 18-month-old pilot program, supported by philanthropist George Sorosâ Open Society Foundation has attracted attention in a country long identified with the war on drugs. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
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DOSQUEBRADAS, Colombia (AP) — As night falls, heroin addicts walk toward a white truck distributing rubber tubes, syringes and sterilized water.

The kits come from a group called Cambie — Spanish for change. Every evening, the Cambie team combs the industrial town for addicts, hoping to swap new syringes for used ones so they don't end up in public parks, where children can step on them or they can be reused by other addicts, increasing the risk of HIV or hepatitis transmission.

Team members are nonjudgmental.

Social worker Hugo Castro doesn't reproach 39-year-old Wilson Pineda as he shows him how to tie a tourniquet over his arm to tap a vein instead of hitting a muscle.

"Sometimes I come every day. Other times I'm asleep because I'm so high," says Pineda, who said he's been shooting up for three years.

The 18-month-old pilot program, supported by philanthropist George Soros' Open Society Foundations, has attracted attention in a country long identified with the war on drugs. Here, programs for users have received scant support compared to the billions of dollars spent pursuing powerful drug cartels.

But now, faced with a dramatic rise in drug consumption, Colombia's Health Ministry hopes to replicate the needle exchange program in other cities such as Bogota and Medellin.

More than 900 addicts in Dosquebradas and the neighboring city of Pereira have received help to date from Cambie. The group, comprised of recovering addicts, also tests illicit drugs for their purity so junkies can see what dangerous adulterants they're consuming.

The program builds trust with mostly poor youth, giving them someone to turn to if they decide to kick the habit.

Colombia is one of only two heroin producers in the Western Hemisphere and the largest supplier of cocaine to the U.S. Drug consumption in the country is rising fast, with 12.2 percent of adults reporting narcotics use in the latest national drug survey in 2013 compared with 8.8 percent in 2008.

___

Associated Press writer Fernando Garcia reported this story in Dosquebradas and AP writer Jacobo Garcia reported from Bogota.

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