Support for N.J. Needle-Exchange Programs Based on Unscientific Research, Opinion Piece Says
Although the supporters of needle-exchange programs in New Jersey cite several studies showing that such programs help reduce the spread of HIV, they are "depending upon research that uses improper statistical methods or lacks the hard data" of HIV incidence and seroconversion among drug users versus non-users, Len Deo, president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council and former member of the governor's advisory council on AIDS, and Toni Meyer, senior research analyst for the council, write in a Bergen Record opinion piece. Data from "valid studies" do not prove that needle-exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV or hepatitis C, as state health officials in favor of needle exchanges have led the public to believe, Deo and Meyer say (Deo/Meyer, Bergen Record, 10/4). The New Jersey Legislature is considering two pieces of legislation aimed at helping injection drug users gain access to clean needles in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C in the state. The first bill -- known as the Bloodborne Disease Harm Reduction Act (A 3256) -- would authorize cities in New Jersey to sponsor local needle-exchange programs that are affiliated with hospitals, clinics or health departments and offer additional health-related services. The second bill (A 3257) would allow individuals over age 18 to purchase from a pharmacy up to 10 needles without a prescription. Currently, New Jersey is one of only four states that require a doctor's prescription for needle purchases and one of only two states that bans both nonprescription needle sales and needle-exchange programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/27). New Jersey legislators "must not legalize drug use or drug paraphernalia, in any setting, without clear, unambiguous, hard research data to support such a controversial and potentially dangerous move," the authors conclude (Bergen Record, 10/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.