Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Editorials, Letter to Editor on Needle-Exchange Programs
Several newspapers recently have published editorials and letters to the editor on the effectiveness of needle-exchange programs for preventing the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases. Some of them are summarized below:
Ottawa Citizen: Although needle-exchange programs in Canadian prisons could prevent the spread of HIV, such programs present "too great a cost to the country's corrections policy," a Citizen editorial says (Ottawa Citizen, 10/30). Both the Ontario Medical Association and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network last week called on the government to implement needle-exchange programs in the country's prisons, saying the programs could help reduce the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C among inmates (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/29). However, many prison inmates "are there because they have shown themselves incapable of behaving with due respect for the safety or property of others, and in many cases drug use has contributed to their problems," the editorial says. Although reducing HIV and hepatitis C prevalence among prison inmates is a "worthy goal," the government should not "turn a blind eye" to inmates who continue to use injection drugs in prison and should not "abandon" its "responsibility to help problem drug users who are in prison," the editorial concludes (Ottawa Citizen, 10/30).
Bergen Record: New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey's (D) decision to allow needle-exchange programs in three New Jersey cities "goes a step toward reducing the spread of AIDS in New Jersey," but it is a "poor substitute for changing the law," a Record editorial says (Bergen Record, 11/1). McGreevey last week signed an executive order allowing up to three cities in the state to establish needle-exchange programs in an effort to curb the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases among injection drug users. The order declares a state of emergency until Dec. 31, 2005, and authorizes the Department of Health and Senior Services to administer needle-exchange programs in cities that meet specific requirements (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/27). Although the "overwhelming preponderance of research shows that needle exchange slows the spread of HIV and doesn't increase drug use," McGreevey's order will expire in 15 months and the programs again will be illegal across New Jersey, the editorial says. McGreevey's order was "too narrow in scope," and it will "be up to the Legislature and a future governor to make the programs permanent," the editorial concludes (Bergen Record, 11/1).
New Jersey Herald News: Designating Paterson, N.J., as the third New Jersey city allowed to operate a needle-exchange program under McGreevey's executive order "makes sense" because the city has the third highest HIV prevalence in the state, a Herald News editorial says. Paterson officials should "aggressively push for" a needle-exchange program under the order because such a program is "not an admission that the city has given up on improving quality of life issues or that it is condoning drug abuse" but is a "matter of public health," the editorial says (New Jersey Herald News, 11/1).
Philadelphia Inquirer: McGreevey's "long overdue" decision to allow needle-exchange programs in Atlantic City and Camden "deserves praise despite its tardiness," an Inquirer editorial says. Although some people have "legitimate fears about sending the wrong message about drug abuse," no group can "continue ignoring a growing public health problem that must concern every New Jerseyan," the editorial says. Allowing needle-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV and other diseases is "not condoning drug abuse," the editorial concludes (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/1).
Letter to the Editor
- Allan Clear/Rachel Porter, New York Times: A congressional ban on federal funding for needle-exchange programs is "misguided moralism" that "fails to understand both patterns of addiction and measures needed to protect the public health," Clear, executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, and Porter, domestic program manager for Doctors of the World-USA, write in a Times letter to the editor in response to an Oct. 25 Times opinion piece by columnist Brent Staples titled, "How Needle-Exchange Programs Fight the AIDS Epidemic." Supporters of the ban "refuse to accept the science" that needle-exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV among injection drug users, and, as a result, "too many Americans needlessly contract HIV and viral hepatitis," Clear and Porter write. They conclude that Congress could better protect the public health by endorsing such "harm reduction" methods as needle-exchange programs (Clear/Porter, New York Times, 11/1).