Camden, N.J., City Council Member Proposes Needle-Exchange Program To Prevent HIV, Hepatitis C Transmission
Camden, N.J., City Council Member Ali Sloan-El (R) on Tuesday plans to introduce legislation to allow a needle-exchange program in the city to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among injection drug users, even though the move would conflict with state law, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Sloan-El said that the program would be a "human service," adding, "We're trying to cut the spread of AIDS" (Ott, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/24). The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General earlier this month said Atlantic City, N.J., does not have the legal authority to implement the state's first needle-exchange program to combat HIV/AIDS among injection drug users in the area. Attorney General Peter Harvey's (D) opinion was in line with a statement issued earlier in the week by Atlantic City Prosecutor Jeffrey Blitz. Blitz learned about the city's plans for the needle-exchange program after the Press of Atlantic City reported that Atlantic City Health and Human Services Director Ron Cash had discussed starting a program through city-run mobile health clinics. Cash said that the city's authority to begin a program was based on a 1999 amendment that exempts government agencies from a section of state law that criminalizes needle and syringe possession. However, Blitz reviewed the law and determined that it allows government agencies to distribute needles and syringes only to people with prescriptions (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/17). Despite the opinion, both Atlantic City and Camden officials plan to "forge ahead" with needle-exchange programs, according to the Inquirer. However, Camden County Prosecutor Vincent Sarubbi told Camden officials that he has "concerns" about the proposed needle exchange, according to the Inquirer. State Sen. Nia Gill (D) has introduced a bill that would legalize needle-exchange programs in the state, the Inquirer reports. New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey (D) has said he favors needle exchanges only as part of "hospital-based" drug rehabilitation programs, according to the Inquirer (Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/24).
New York Daily News Examines Brooklyn, N.Y., Program
In related news, the New York Daily News on Sunday examined the After Hours Project, a needle-exchange and condom distribution program aimed at injection drug users and commercial sex workers in Brooklyn, N.Y. Fernando Soto and Richard Curtis began the program in 2002 to provide needle-exchange and condom distribution services at night, a time that "would coincide with the lifestyles of drug users and sex workers," according to the Daily News. Soto and two volunteers provide the services from a van that they drive around Brooklyn neighborhoods three nights per week. In two years, more than 2,000 individuals have used the program's referral and emergency services, and more than 800 injection drug users have participated in the After Hours needle exchange, according to the Daily News. The program receives "limited" funding from several not-for-profit agencies, according to the Daily News. "My brother died of AIDS in '88," Soto said, adding, "He was an IV drug user. Since then I decided that I would dedicate my life to helping people" (Gonen, New York Daily News, 5/23).