Houston Chronicle Publishes Editorial, Opinion Piece Favoring Texas Needle-Exchange Legislation
Texas "desperately" needs needle-exchange programs to prevent the transmission of bloodborne diseases, including HIV, and "snap the chain of contagion that runs" between injection drug users and their sexual partners, spouses and children, a Houston Chronicle editorial says. Legislation (SB 127) sponsored by state Sen. Jon Lindsay (R) would allow injection drug users in Texas to exchange used needles for clean ones at public health agencies as a means of preventing the spread of HIV and other diseases, the editorial says. The bill would allow needle-exchange program operators to charge users a fee of up to 150% of the cost of each hypodermic needle and would mandate that participants receive education about the transmission and prevention of infectious diseases, as well as assistance in obtaining treatment for substance use, according to the Chronicle. Under the measure -- which is scheduled for a hearing in the state Senate on Tuesday -- health agencies would be required to compile information on the program's effectiveness in reducing the spread of disease, the editorial says. A hearing on the bill is scheduled on Tuesday, according to the Chronicle. The state could save "massive" amounts of money in programs such as Medicaid by implementing needle exchange -- a "simple and cheap sanitation measure" -- to prevent transmission of bloodborne diseases, the Chronicle says. While it is "unfortunate that an issue that should be soberly weighed on its health merits has become entangled in a heated ideological debate" about providing services for injection drug users, Lindsay -- "a conservative Republican" -- should be "commended" for undertaking "a difficult, controversial issue that many in his party would have avoided," the editorial concludes (Houston Chronicle, 3/21).
The health risks posed by injection drug use are "markedly" increased when users share needles contaminated by bloodborne diseases, William Martin, a senior fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece. While "[n]o responsible person wants to encourage drug abuse," no "fiscally prudent person wants to waste money simply to satisfy a sense of righteous indignation," and "[n]o compassionate person wants to consign people unnecessarily to death or a living hell," Martin writes, concluding, "Fortunately, providing injecting drug users with access to sterile syringes allows us to be responsible, prudent and compassionate -- admirable criteria for good public policy" (Martin, Houston Chronicle, 3/21).