Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2001
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2001 Burlington Free Press
Author: Tom Dalton


After weeks of addressing the threat of anthrax, smallpox and other 
microbes to the health of Vermonters, Gov. Howard Dean recently recommitted 
to protecting Vermonters from a more immediate threat: HIV/AIDS. Dean said 
he would like to see HIV/AIDS "put back on the front burner." I hope he 
means it.

HIV is most often transmitted through sex and needle sharing. Providing 
broad access to free condoms and sterile syringes is the single most 
important thing we can do to protect our communities.

Injection drug use is increasingly common in Vermont. More and more people, 
many in their teens and early 20s, are injecting heroin and other drugs. 
For those who share syringes and their sexual partners, HIV infection is a 
serious threat.

Needle-exchange programs are scientifically proven to dramatically reduce 
HIV transmission without increasing drug use overall or via injection. 
Vermont law provides for the establishment of needle-exchange programs. 
Dean supported and signed the law, but so far he hasn't done much to make 
needle exchange a reality in Vermont.

In his recent travels to Africa to attend a conference on HIV/AIDS, I hope 
the governor took some time to consider two important steps he can take to 
prevent HIV transmission here at home: First, he should make it a personal 
goal to make needle exchange a reality statewide before his term ends. 
Second, he should commit to making state funding available for needle 
exchange. Without such funding, Vermont will continue to face the 
biological threat of HIV/AIDS without the infrastructure it needs to 
protect our citizens.

TOM DALTON Burlington
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