Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jun 2001
Source: Union-News (MA)
Copyright: 2001 Union-News
Author: David Reid
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


HOLYOKE   -   A City Council proposal to create a needle-exchange 
program in the city will remain bottled up in committee a while 
longer, while its sponsor arranges for councilors to visit a 
successful program in Northampton.

Ward 2 City Councilor Diosdado Lopez said last night that, by the 
time his proposal comes up for a vote by the full council, one or 
more nonprofit agencies will have drafted concrete proposals to set 
up a needle-exchange program here.

"We want to put a program together and go into the council," Lopez 
said last night.

"And I'm pretty sure there will be a couple of agencies putting in 
plans," he said. "At least I'm hoping."

Lopez, who said a needle-exchange program would help combat AIDS and 
other diseases, spoke last night after the council's Public Safety 
Committee canceled its meeting for lack of a quorum.

But Councilor at large Patrick J. Higgins, who chairs the committee, 
said he agreed beforehand not to bring the measure to a vote at 
Lopez's request.

Recent state data shows that Holyoke has 273 people living with the 
HIV virus or AIDS, which represents a rate of 647 per 100,000, 
one-third higher than in Springfield and more than three times the 
state rate. Of those, two-thirds contracted the diseases through 
intravenous drug use.

Of those infected with HIV-AIDS in Holyoke, the data shows that 56 
percent are male, with 84 percent of them of Hispanic origin.

Earlier this month, the City Council voted 10-4 in favor of placing a 
question on the Nov. 6 ballot asking voters whether they want to 
create a needle-exchange program in the city.

Mayor Michael J. Sullivan, who is personally opposed to that 
initiative and favors the state making such decisions, signed the 
order. He said residents would benefit from a public debate on the 
issue, which elicits legitimate health and public-policy questions.

Also this month, Chicopee aldermen voted 12-0 against becoming part 
of a pilot program for a state needle-exchange program. And in 
Springfield, a similar measure failed when the City Council split 4-4.
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MAP posted-by: Josh Sutcliffe