Boston Mayor Plans To File Bill Calling for Over-the-Counter Sale of Hypodermic Needles
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (D) on Monday said he plans to file a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature that would allow the city's pharmacies the option to sell hypodermic needles without a prescription, the Boston Herald reports. The "controversial" bill is an effort to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, the Herald reports. Menino announced the bill during his remarks at a World AIDS Day observance on Monday. "The AIDS crisis is not over. The numbers are growing. We've got to do something. We need another tool in place," Menino said. Boston has a needle-exchange program -- in which injection drug users can trade in used needles for clean ones -- but Menino is pushing for over-the-counter needle sales in the city, an initiative he said he hopes will eventually become statewide. Gerry D'Avolio, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, said that the measure would "encourage further drug abuse by making needles more available." About 32% of all people with AIDS statewide contracted HIV through injection drug use, according to a report issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Monday (Lasalandra, Boston Herald, 12/3).
Conference Focuses on 'Harm Reduction' for Drug Users
In related news, participants of the National Harm Reduction Conference, a four-day event in Seattle, are discussing needle-exchange programs, overdose prevention education and drug substitution as "harm reduction" methods, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. Almost 1,300 drug treatment and health care workers are attending the conference, which runs through today, to learn more about the "growing field of study." Allan Clear, executive director of the New York-based, not-for-profit Harm Reduction Coalition, described the trend as "essentially ... accepting that people use drugs to a degree of all kinds and that drug use isn't going to disappear, no matter how hard we try" (Ho, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12/3). Proponents of harm reduction at the conference "slammed" drug abstinence messages and said that "compassionate" programs need more funding, according to the AP/Contra Costa Times. Alonzo Plough, director of the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, suggested one method of harm reduction is making hypodermic needles available without a prescription at pharmacies (Gelineau, AP/Contra Costs Times, 12/3).