NYC Borough Queens ‘Finally’ To Adopt Needle-Exchange Program To Fight HIV/AIDS, Editorial Says
The New York City borough of Queens "finally" will adopt its first needle-exchange program after it "blew a chance" -- because of "fear, ignorance and politics" -- to benefit from a similar program 10 years ago when the initiative first appeared in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, a Long Island Newsday editorial says (Long Island Newsday, 10/21). Queens plans to launch the needle-exchange program as soon as December in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases in the area. The program will be run out of the AIDS Center of Queens County in Long Island City, N.Y., and will allow injection drug users to exchange an unlimited number of used needles for clean ones. Previous proposals for needle-exchange programs in the borough have been thwarted by community opposition. For example, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had proposed that a mobile van be stationed near the Queensbridge public housing project, but some people in the neighborhood opposed the plan. New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden has said that the lack of a needle-exchange program in Queens is a concern because the number of HIV cases among injection drug users in parts of the borough is rising. In addition, AIDS-related complications are the leading cause of death for New York City residents between the ages of 25 and 44, according to city health department data (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/20). Some community leaders worry that needle-exchange sites will attract drug users and increase illicit drug use and crime, which is "not true," the editorial says. "Infected addicts are already in the neighborhood, and the best course is to help them as much as possible to the benefit of the public at large," the editorial says, concluding that this "sensible approach" comes "better late than never" (Long Island Newsday, 10/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.