Needle Exchange ‘Wrong Answer’ in N.J.’s Fight Against HIV/AIDS, State Sen. Rice Says in Opinion Piece
Although HIV/AIDS has reached "epidemic proportions" in New Jersey and "something needs to be done," needle-exchange programs are the "wrong answer," New Jersey state Sen. Ronald Rice (D) writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece. Needle-exchange programs are "only a short-term solution to the ticking time bomb of HIV/AIDS infections" that eventually would "explode into a real, long-term problem for the communities where these drug users reside," Rice says. He adds that New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey's (D) executive order authorizing needle-exchange programs is a "devastating blow to my cause to keep needles off the street" (Rice, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/4). McGreevey last month 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). "With the needle-exchange program, we are handing out instruments for drug use to junkies instead of funding programs to help law-abiding citizens ... who have to endure the constant risk to their public safety because they live alongside dealers and addicts," Rice says. Instead of "condon[ing] drug use" through needle-exchange programs, New Jersey should fight for "more education and treatment," Rice says, pledging his support in these efforts and promising to show how the programs produce negative results. "Municipalities that are considering offering the syringe programs are playing with fire, but it will be the urban residents who get burned," Rice concludes (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.