‘Restrictive’ N.J. Laws on Needle Distribution, Exchange Result in More HIV, Hepatitis C Cases, Opinion Piece Says
New Jersey's "overly restrictive" laws on needle distribution and exchange are "outdated" and are "proving detrimental to the state's interests" because they result in more cases of HIV and hepatitis C, New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Roberts (D) writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece (Roberts, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/25). Sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs is the leading cause of both HIV and hepatitis C infections in New Jersey. Although injection drug use has become the primary source of new HIV/AIDS cases in the state, New Jersey is one of only a few remaining states that requires a prescription to purchase needles (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/13). New Jersey's legal restrictions have cost the state "in terms of more money, more illness and more lives," Roberts says. New Jersey has spent "millions" of dollars in taxpayer money to provide care for uninsured residents who are infected with viruses through injection drug use, Roberts says, adding that used syringes have been "found in schoolyards and playgrounds in all regions of the state," and such needles "pose an environmental threat." Studies show that the number of infectious disease cases in New Jersey would "drop precipitously if it did a better job of making syringes available and collecting them after they are used," Roberts says. In addition, experiences in other states that have legalized syringe sales or allowed needle-exchange programs "further underscore how New Jersey could benefit from a more tolerant approach to syringe access," according to Roberts, who concludes that the state Legislature should "enact a syringe-control law that promotes better public health while ridding the state of the dirty-needle threat" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.