U.S. Should Adopt Calif.’s ‘Enlightened Approach’ Toward Injection Drug Users To Curb Spread of HIV, Editorial Says
Injection drug users will "continue to drive" the HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C epidemics in the United States until the "country takes a more enlightened approach to drug treatment" -- including implementing needle-exchange programs and developing large-scale treatment initiatives, a New York Times editorial says. California last week "embarked on the most ambitious drug treatment effort yet seen in the country" with a new law that improves access to clean needles, according to the Times (New York Times, 9/24). California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Monday signed a bill (SB 1159) that gives cities and counties the ability to authorize pharmacies to sell up to 10 sterile syringes at one time to adults without prescriptions. However, Schwarzenegger vetoed another bill (AB 2871) that would have allowed cities and counties that operate needle-exchange programs to keep the programs running without having to renew a declaration of a public health emergency every two to three weeks (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/21). Although Schwarzenegger "courageously" signed SB 1159, the state still "needs to revisit" the "absurdly restrictive" law that prevents localities from easily operating needle-exchange programs because such programs "slow the spread of AIDS infections -- without spreading addiction -- and serve as a gateway for treatment," the Times says. In addition, California's Proposition 36 -- which offers drug treatment to nonviolent drug offenders -- has enrolled more than 65,000 people into treatment programs in the past two years, according to the Times. If the new programs in California "rehabilitat[e] even a third" of the state's nonviolent drug users, "prison costs and bloodborne infections like AIDS should decline noticeably," the Times concludes (New York Times, 9/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.