Davis Should Sign Bill To Allow Sales of Needles Without a Prescription, Opinion Piece Says
Signing a bill (SB 1785) that would allow adults to purchase up to 30 hypodermic needles and syringes at pharmacies without a prescription would give California Gov. Gray Davis (D) "an opportunity to establish California as a state committed to preventing HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C," San Francisco AIDS Foundation Executive Director Pat Christen and San Francisco Public Health Department Director Mitch Katz write in a San Francisco Chronicle opinion piece. Christen and Katz state that California "lags" behind other states in preventing HIV transmission through injection drug use because it is one of only six states that require a prescription to purchase a needle at a pharmacy. "We must face the reality that some people will not stop injecting drugs, and we do not have enough drug treatment services in California to help all those who would like to stop," Christen and Katz state. They write that "[d]enying access to clean needles is not only inhumane, it is costly to taxpayers," who must subsidize the cost of treatment for people who contract HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. But Christen and Katz note that under the bill, the "minimal" cost of a needle would be covered by the purchaser. Although some critics of the legislation say that the measure condones drug use and would lead to a rise in crime, some studies indicate that expanding access to sterile needles reduces the spread of disease without increasing drug use or crime, Christen and Katz write. They state that Davis' "record on the care of people living with HIV and AIDS is excellent," but his efforts to boost HIV prevention are "not as strong," noting that Davis reduced state spending on HIV prevention programs in 2001 and "weakened" a needle-exchange program law. Christen and Katz conclude that by signing the bill, "Davis has the opportunity to distinguish himself as a national leader in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS" (Christen/Katz, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.