Pubdate: Fri,  2 Nov 2001
Source: WorldNetDaily (US Web)
Copyright: 2001, Inc.
Author: Peter LaBarbera
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Note: The author is a senior policy analyst at the Culture and Family


Evertz's Pronouncements Violate Bush Beliefs, Federal Policy

WASHINGTON -- Scott Evertz, the openly homosexual director of the White
House Office of National AIDS Policy, has broken ranks with President George
W. Bush's stated opposition to needle-exchange schemes, endorsing
government-funded "clean needle" programs in an interview that appeared in
two homosexual newspapers. 

During last year's presidential campaign, Bush assailed needle-exchange
programs, saying they "signal nothing but abdication." 

On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Mercy Viana said that Evertz's
comments do not reflect official administration policy: "We do not support
federal funding of needle-exchange programs." 

The next day, the administration issued this statement: "The president's
advisers bring different perspectives to the table, but ultimately the
president makes the decision, and he is opposed to needle exchange." 

Evertz -- who drew criticism from Concerned Women for America, Family
Research Council and other pro-family groups as Bush's first major openly
homosexual appointment -- said he has examined the evidence on
needle-exchange programs for drug abusers and is now convinced they work in
slowing HIV. 

Evertz's pronouncements have stunned family advocates and opponents of
needle-exchange programs, who say the Bush "AIDS czar" is ignoring studies
that question the effectiveness of such programs. 

"I don't know what evidence he could have looked at. If he had an open mind
in April, he's thinking ideologically now," said Michael Schwartz,
vice-president for government relations for Concerned Women for America. 

In an interview with Evertz in the homosexual newspaper Wisconsin IN Step,
the following exchange occurred: 

IN Step: It is our understanding that you are supportive of syringe
exchange. What efforts can/will you make to, at the very least, discontinue
the ban on federal funding for these programs?

Evertz: I have indicated in a number of different go-rounds [that] I view it
as my job to present substantive and conclusive data that I can gather on
this issue to those who need to make a decision to eliminate [the current
ban on federal funding of needle-exchange programs] -- or keep it in place.
I know there was work done in my predecessor's office in the previous
administration. As we all know, nothing happened [on needle exchange]. 
[M]y job is to present to those making the decision the data and [say] that
this office is charged with keeping people, among other things, from
contracting HIV. This [needle exchange] is saving lives and the evidence is
conclusive. [emphasis added] 

Evertz, who was a Republican "gay" activist in Wisconsin prior to coming to
Washington, said that in the past he spoke on the needle-exchange issue
"without having seen any of the data or seeing any of the reports." Now, he
said, he is "gathering the information that I need" -- through clinical
studies -- to "substantiate" his support of drug needle-exchange programs. 

Bucking The Boss' Policy 

Evertz's comments violate clear campaign positions by Bush opposing
needle-exchange programs and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy
Thompson's commitment in June to uphold the Clinton ban on federal funding
of needle- exchange programs for drug addicts. 

According to one HIV-oriented website, candidate Bush had these tough words
when a Chicago AIDS group asked him about needle-exchange programs: 

"I do not favor needle-exchange programs and other so-called 'harm
reduction' strategies to combat drug use. I support a comprehensive mix of
prevention, education, treatment, law enforcement and supply interdiction to
curb drug use and promote a healthy, drug-free America, not misguided
efforts to weaken drug laws. Drug use in America, especially among children,
has increased dramatically under the Clinton-Gore administration, and
needle-exchange programs signal nothing but abdication, that these dangers
are here to stay. Children deserve a clear, unmixed message that there are
right choices in life and wrong choices in life, that we are all responsible
for our actions and that using drugs will destroy your life. America needs a
president who will aim not just for risk reduction, but for risk elimination
that offers people hope and recovery, not a dead-end approach that offers
despair and addiction."

Homosexual newspapers complained during the campaign that neither Bush nor
Democrat Al Gore supported the controversial AIDS prevention strategy. In a
March interview with, Clinton's HHS secretary, Donna Shalala,
said that she almost succeeded in persuading Clinton and then-Vice President
Gore to endorse needle-exchange programs, but "for political reasons they
decided at the last minute they didn't want government money to be used for
needle exchange." 

Like Evertz, Shalala claimed "the science was very clear on the argument" in
favor of clean- needle programs. 

Pro-family groups believe Shalala is wrong about the science. On the moral
front, the long dominant view in the Republican Party has been that such
programs are wrong because they put government in the role of subsidizing
bad and addictive behavior. 

Did Evertz Dismiss Opposing Evidence? 

Traditional-values leaders say Evertz's precipitous endorsement of needle
exchange also breaks a promise to carefully weigh the evidence opposing this
method of reducing HIV infections. 

Schwartz met with Evertz in April and said he received a pledge from him to
study the evidence opposed to needle-exchange programs with an open mind. 

Schwartz said a GOP congressional aide sent Evertz a report critiquing
various studies of drug needle-exchange programs that were in place in
various big cities and in foreign countries like The Netherlands. 

The report by Dr. Fred J. Payne entitled, "An Evidence-Based Review of
Needle Exchange Programs," concludes: 

In spite of the frequent assertion that implementing needle and syringe
exchange programs (NEP) on a national scale would be a life-saving measure
in the current HIV epidemic, there is little hard evidence to support such a
claim either in the reports garnered by this extended literature search or
in those listed as supportive of the HHS recommendation for federal funding
of NEP. To the contrary, the best of these studies indicate that
needle-exchange programs fail to protect against HIV transmission. There
appears to be some impact by the NEP on reducing the risk behavior such as
needle sharing among participants, but this is primarily based on self
reporting by individual [intravenous drug users].

Payne's lists summaries from 19 studies, some of which support claims that
needle-exchange policies help reduce HIV infections and some of which
undermine those claims. For example, a 1997 study in the American Journal of
Epidemiology "suggests that the initiation of [needle exchange programs]
does not result in an increase in the number of discarded needles."

Schwartz, who knew Evertz 20 years ago in Wisconsin where they were both
pro-life activists, now questions Evertz's loyalty to Bush. 

"When Scott first came to Washington, his intention was to be a loyal member
of the Bush administration," he said. "But his recent statements suggest
that he has been swallowed by the special interests that he used to refer to
derisively as 'AIDS, Incorporated' -- and now has become their ambassador to
the Bush administration." 

No Change From Clinton? 

Evertz also told IN Step that "there is no difference in response [to AIDS]
between the previous administration and this one. We are committed, if not
more so, to the comprehensive approach to dealing with HIV and AIDS." 

One Republican congressional aide who is active on AIDS issues on Capitol
Hill was distressed by Evertz's rhetoric and his praise of Clinton's

"The last administration's AIDS policy was a disaster. In Clinton's eight
years as president, 320,000 Americans became infected with HIV and the rate
of growth never dropped once in those eight years. In fact, many estimate
infection rates began to rise again during that time -- despite billions
spent every year. 

"We did not elect George W. Bush to continue these failed policies, and I
know George Bush does not intend to continue them, either," said the aide,
who requested anonymity. 

"If someone within the Bush administration feels that the president is wrong
on needle exchange -- or some other aspect of HIV prevention -- I'd be happy
to provide an opportunity for them to testify before the appropriate
subcommittee and explain their motives to the Congress and the American
people," he said.
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