The El Paso County Board of Health has rejected a needle exchange program proposed by the Southern Colorado AIDS Project.
Opponents argued the initiative would have promoted drug use, but Richard Blair, the regional director of the AIDS Project, said studies have shown otherwise.
"There's really a benefit to the program," Blair said before the vote. "We're getting people where we can talk to them about other options. About possibly seeking substance abuse help. We can make sure the equipment they're using is clean so they're not transmitting the virus. We're also providing more public safety for our first responders or anybody in the public that might get stuck (by a discarded needle)."
In Colorado, 17,485 people had been diagnosed with HIV as of June 2013, and nearly 6,000 have died from the disease, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.