New Jersey Should ‘Move Aggressively’ to Implement Needle-Exchange Programs, Editorial Says
New Jersey government officials should "move aggressively" to implement needle-exchange programs to help slow the spread of HIV through the sharing of contaminated needles, a Newark Star-Ledger editorial says. "We can only guess how many" of the 28,000 New Jersey residents who have died of AIDS-related illnesses "would have been spared if the state had put aside politics and punitive ideology and treated this program as a public health crisis by allowing addicts access to clean needles," the editorial states, adding that New Jersey's current laws make hypodermic needle possession a crime. The CDC, NIH and the National Academy of Sciences all have concluded that needle-exchange programs -- the "one weapon in the arsenal against AIDS that New Jersey has refused to use" so far -- reduce the rate of HIV infection "without encouraging further drug use," the Star-Ledger says, leaving no "legitimate debate" about the value of these programs. The editorial says that unlike former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R), who would not change her "absolutist" stance against needle-exchange programs even after her self-appointed advisory committee recommended one for the state, Gov.-elect James McGreevey (D) has "promis[ed]" to establish a needle-exchange pilot program. McGreevey has "affirmed" his promise by appointing Clifton Lacy, who is a "physician, not a politician," as the next health commissioner, the editorial states. New Jersey has been "slo[w]" to see the value of needle-exchange programs, the Star-Ledger says, concluding, "It's time to move aggressively to make up for a decade of neglect" (Newark Star-Ledger, 1/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.