U.S. Delegation to U.N. Drug Policy Summit Should Support Harm-Reduction Efforts, Editorial Says
"Programs that give drug addicts access to clean needles have been shown the world over to slow the spread of deadly diseases, including HIV/AIDS and hepatitis," a New York Times editorial says, adding, "Public health experts were relieved when President Obama announced his support for ending a ban on federal funding for such programs." However, Obama's "message seems not to have reached the American delegation to a United Nations drug policy summit" in Vienna, Austria, where "progress is stalled on a plan that would guide global drug control and AIDS prevention efforts for years to come," according to the editorial. It adds that the U.S. delegation has "angered allies, especially the European Union, by blocking efforts to incorporate references to the concept of 'harm reduction' -- of which needle exchange is a prime example -- into the plan."
Officials at the State Department said that they were "resisting the harm-reduction language because it could also be interpreted as endorsing legalized drugs or providing addicts with a place to inject drugs," the editorial says. However, the "Vienna plan does not require any country to adopt policies it finds inappropriate," according to the editorial, which adds that "by resisting the harm-reduction language, the American delegation is alienating allies and sending precisely the wrong message to developing nations, which must do a lot more to control AIDS and other addiction-related diseases." The editorial writes that some "members of Congress are rightly angry about the impasse in Vienna," adding that three members last week sent an e-mail to the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice "urging" that the U.S. delegation in Vienna "be given new marching orders on the harm-reduction language" (New York Times, 1/31).