New York City Borough of Queens Begins Operation of First Needle-Exchange Program
New York City health officials and administrators are hoping the "low-key" atmosphere of the first and only needle-exchange program in Queens, which began operation on Nov. 30, will convince injection drug users to use the program, the New York Daily News reports. After "years of messy political battles and disappointments," the AIDS Center of Queens County began operating the needle-exchange program after garnering the "high-powered" support of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R), Department of Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall (D), according to the Daily News. Some opponents of the program "came around" when they were told that needle-exchange programs do not increase the incidence of injection drug use, according to ACQC Executive Director Philip Glotzer, the Daily News reports. "We're trying to reach out to a real disenfranchised, disconnected population," Glotzer said, adding, "We're not trying to make a problem worse. We're trying to alleviate the problem." Injection drug users represent the largest proportion of HIV/AIDS cases in the borough, according to the Daily News. "We know that HIV/AIDS is growing dramatically in our borough, unfortunately," Glotzer, who plans to speak at community meetings in favor of instituting needle-exchange programs in New York's Jamaica and Rockaway neighborhoods, said, adding, "When I got here seven years ago, we had 700 clients. Now we have 3,600. More people are being infected through substance abuse" (Colangelo, New York Daily News, 12/12). Bloomberg earlier this month, while announcing that the health department will receive an additional $5 million annually to fight HIV/AIDS, promised to fund "politically unpopular" plans, including needle-exchange programs. "I'm 62 years old, and I've long ago gotten over the problem of worrying what people think," Bloomberg said, adding, "I'm going to do what I think is right." The city currently spends $8.7 million annually on HIV/AIDS prevention (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.