Massachusetts, Federal Regulations Against Needle Exchanges Hampering Health Officials’ Efforts To Prevent HIV/AIDS, Editorial Says
Public health officials working to prevent the spread of HIV nationwide "have to work with one hand tied behind their backs" because Congress has banned the use of federal funds for needle-exchange programs, a Boston Globe editorial says. Last week, the NAACP, the National Urban League and other advocacy groups called on Congress to repeal the ban, and they are "right to do so," the editorial adds. According to the Globe, removing restrictions on federal funding would enable communities that receive "little if any support" from their states to obtain federal support for HIV prevention efforts. It also would "go a long way toward" reducing community opposition to needle exchanges, the Globe adds.
In Massachusetts, there are state-funded needle-exchange programs in Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Provincetown, according to the Globe. Massachusetts cities without needle exchanges, such as New Bedford and Lowell, have "historically had much higher" rates of HIV/AIDS among injection drug users than cities that have such programs, the editorial says.
In 2006, Massachusetts repealed a law that required a prescription to purchase hypodermic syringes, according to the Globe. The state would assist more communities in establishing needle exchanges, but a Massachusetts law bars the Department of Public Health from setting up programs in communities that oppose them, the Globe notes. The state Legislature "should amend that law to permit the establishment of programs after DPH consults with local officials, but not necessarily require their approval," the editorial says.
The Globe adds that HIV/AIDS is a "public health emergency," concluding, "On both Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill, lawmakers should ensure that public health officials can fully use this effective means of limiting HIV transmission" (Boston Globe, 2/12).