Pubdate: Wed, 01 Aug 2001
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2001 Detroit Free Press
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


The Rev. Richard Harris is to be commended for putting human lives
before politics. The needle exchange program he operates in Detroit will
help minimize the damage done by the never-ending war on drugs.

Evidence that the zero-tolerance approach to drugs contributes to the
spread of HIV is quite clear. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, 56 percent of AIDS cases among American women
are linked to injection drug use or sex with partners who inject drugs.
Overall, 36 percent of AIDS cases in the United States can be traced
back to intravenous drug use.

This easily preventable public health crisis is a direct result of
zero-tolerance policies that restrict access to clean syringes. Punitive
drug laws compound the problem by driving use underground. Would
alcoholics seek help for their addiction if doing so were tantamount to
confessing to criminal activity?

In the interest of containing the HIV epidemic, let's hope America's
"tough on drugs" politicians acknowledge the drug war's collateral
damage sooner rather than later.

Robert Sharpe, Program Officer
The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, Washington, D.C.
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