Pubdate: Mon, 20 Aug 2001
Source: Newsday (NY)
Section: Queens Edition, Viewpoints, Pg A25
Copyright: 2001 Newsday Inc
Author: Robert Sharpe



Thank you for acknowledging the positive impact that New York's needle 
exchange programs have had on reducing the incidence of HIV among 
intravenous drug users and their partners ["Winning the War," Aug. 14].

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, 58 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 tremendous collateral 
damage sooner rather than later.

Robert Sharpe

Editor's Note: The writer is program officer for the Lindesmith Center-Drug 
Policy Foundation. Washington, D.C.
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