New Jersey Governor’s AIDS Council Urges State To Provide Clean Needles to Drug Users, Condoms to Public School Students
The New Jersey Governor's Advisory Council on AIDS has issued a report to Gov. James McGreevey (D) saying that the state should "step up" its fight against AIDS by providing clean needles to drug users and condoms to public school students, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. The council's report, which has not yet been released publicly, was compiled by health care workers, lawmakers, administration officials and clergy and recommends ways to reduce the spread of HIV in the state. McGreevey has already proposed a pilot needle-exchange program, but he "has preferred to leave it up to local school boards to decide" whether to provide condoms in public schools, McGreevey spokesperson Ellen Mellody, said, according to the Star-Ledger. Terrence Zealand, acting chair of the council, said that he hoped that schools would voluntarily adopt condom distribution programs that would make condoms confidentially available in school-based clinics or through school nurses. "Some districts will hopefully take our recommendations to heart and implement it, and some districts I'm sure will ignore it," Zealand said. New Jersey ranks fifth in the nation in number of AIDS cases, according to 2001 state Department of Health and Senior Services statistics. Although children ages 13 to 19 accounted for only 196 of reported cases in the last decade, higher rates of needle sharing, an increase in STD rates and "signs of 'prevention fatigue' among at-risk populations" show that the state "needs to draw more attention to methods of prevention among young people," George DiFerdinando, deputy commissioner for public health services for DHSS, said. Several large school districts in the United States, including New York City, distribute condoms in schools. No New Jersey school districts have taken steps to adopt condom distribution policies in the past. "I think many look at the concerns of their own communities and may feel that parents feel it is not the schools' role," Frank Belluscio, a spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said (Livio/Schuppe, Newark Star-Ledger, 1/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.