Worcester, Mass., HIV/AIDS Panel Discusses Solutions to EpidemicWorcester, Mass., HIV/AIDS workers yesterday discussed solutions to the city's AIDS epidemic at an HIV/AIDS symposium, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports. The city's HIV/AIDS infection rate is 172 per 100,000, compared to the state's rate of 95 per 100,000. Dr. Marshall Forstein, medical director of mental health, addiction and health promotion at the Fenway Community Health Center, broached the topic of needle exchange, a politically charged issue in Worcester as the city council recently voted down a needle exchange program. Forstein, who also works with a needle exchange program in Cambridge, Mass., said that statistics indicate a decline of HIV infections among intravenous drug users who have access to needle exchange programs, noting that addicts who visit the program in Cambridge are "beginning to seek medical help." He added, "The question we should be asking about needle exchange is not whether it's good or bad, but does it work?"
Barbara Murphy, coordinator of the HIV clinic at the Worcester County House of Correction, noted during the panel discussion, "We're seeing more and more multiple diagnoses," including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, drug addiction and psychiatric problems. Panelists agreed that Worcester needs to implement "youth and bilingual treatment programs and a coordinated effort to treat those with several diagnoses." Joanne Calista, executive director of the Central Massachusetts Area Health Education Center, added that "the complexity of the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic requires the city's health and social services agencies to collaborate to a high degree" (Melady, Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 1/25).