Majority of Californians Support Access to Clean Needles, Condoms as AIDS Prevention Strategies, Statewide Survey Shows
A majority of Californians favor providing clean needles to drug users and condoms to prisoners, according to a statewide survey released yesterday, the Contra Costa Times reports. The telephone survey, which was conducted by the state Department of Health Services and the University of California-Berkeley from April to June 2000, asked 1,739 state residents about their risk behaviors and knowledge of HIV/AIDS. The results showed that 62% of the respondents support state funding for needle-exchange programs and condom distribution in prisons and also suggested that a majority of Californians favor requiring HIV testing for pregnant women, requiring doctors to report HIV/AIDS cases to the state and giving clean needles to injection drug users in prison. These HIV/AIDS prevention policies "clearly make sense, and the survey indicates strong support that the state should pay for these programs," Joel Moskowitz, the survey's lead researcher, said. However, many people "chafe at the idea" of giving needles to injection drug users because it is "antithetical to California's war on drugs," the Times reports. According to Terry Thornton, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections, some people oppose giving prisoners condoms because they might be used to hide contraband or as a weapon. In addition, sexual activity in state prisons is illegal, and giving prisoners condoms would "send a mixed message," she added. Currently, San Francisco is the only jurisdiction to allow condoms in jails. Moskowitz said that the survey's biases stem from a probable underrepresentation of highly educated conservative people, who are not likely to do phone interviews, and young adults, who are busy, more difficult to contact and might participate in more high-risk behaviors (English, Contra Costa Times, 11/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.