No Proven Correlation Between Hawaii’s Needle-Exchange Program and Possible Drop in HIV Infection, Letter to Editor States
A Feb. 15 article in the Honolulu Advertiser on Hawaii's needle-exchange program noted a drop in HIV cases in the state, but there is no proof that HIV incidence in Hawaii has decreased or that the state's needle-exchange program has helped reduce HIV transmission, Roland Foster writes in an Advertiser letter to the editor. Foster, a staff member of the House Committee on Government Reform drug reform subcommittee, states that Hawaii only collects data on AIDS cases, not HIV cases. Because the state's needle-exchange program has only existed for a decade and it can take 10 years or more for HIV to develop into AIDS, it is "therefore impossible to tell what impact the needle exchange has had on HIV incidence," Foster states. He notes that Don Des Jarlais, who evaluated Hawaii's needle-exchange program, found two years ago that both hepatitis B and C were "rampant" among intravenous drug users in Hawaii, despite the fact that needle-exchange programs aim to reduce these bloodborne infections. Foster writes that although Des Jarlais cites an increase in the number of needles exchanged as "proof that the program is working," one should not make such a correlation. "One could assume that such an increase may be the result of increased drug abuse, clearly not a good development," Foster states. He concludes, "More scrutiny, better data and real results are needed before Hawaii's needle exchange can be deemed a success" (Foster, Honolulu Advertiser, 2/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.