By Christin Ayers

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – While heralding Oakland’s existing needle exchange program for lowering the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, advocates say it’s simply doesn’t go far enough.

But their proposed expansion has been greeted by controversy.

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“Right now we’re saying, ‘Here’s some clean needles. OK, go do it somewhere dirty where you don’t have access to water – like, sorry, good luck,’” said Savannah O’Neill of the HIV Education Prevention Project of Alameda County.

O’Neill and others want to offer a safe, clean place where addicts can shoot up.

“It’s just the best practices for people to consume what they’re going to consume anyway,” said Braunz Courtney of the HIV Education Prevention Project of Alameda County.

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At last weekend’s syringe and needle exchange, Courtney and other HIV Education Prevention Project of Alameda stsaffers unveiled what they call a “chill room.”

It’s a pop-up tent designed as a safe injection site manned by a medical professional. The group said there are 90 such sites worldwide, but the only one in North America is in Vancouver.

“We know that in cities where they exist, overdose rates go down, infections go down,” O’Neill told KPIX 5. “Public injection goes down. Less people are injecting on the streets.”

According to O’Neill, studies on the sites have found they do not increase the use of illegal drugs.

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But the advocacy group says it faces a battle to get funding for the program from Alameda County officials.