Pubdate: Thu, 31 May 2001
Source: Abbotsford News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2001 Hacker Press Ltd.
Author: Bert Warden


Editor, The News:

I would like to add my voice in opposition to the establishment of a needle 
exchange program (NEP) in Abbotsford.

The problem is the lack of credible evidence from already established NEPs 
that the program really works to help drug addicts. The following 
information, published by the Heritage Foundation, should give us pause:

"In 1996, Vancouver researchers followed 1,006 intravenous cocaine and 
heroin users who visited needle exchanges, conducting periodic blood tests 
and interviews. The results, published in a British research journal, were 
not encouraging.

"About 40 percent of the test group reported borrowing a used needle in the 
preceding six months. Worse, after only eight months, 18.6 percent of those 
initially HIV-negative became infected with the virus.

"Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in 
HIV/AIDS, was the report's lead researcher. She found it 'particularly 
disturbing' that needle-sharing among program participants, despite access 
to clean syringes, is common. Though a needle exchange program advocate, 
Strathdee concedes that the high HIV rates are 'alarming.' "

Shepherd Smith, founder of Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy, says that 
compared to similar drug-using populations in the United States, the 
Vancouver results are "disastrous."

"Though it boasts the largest needle exchange program in North America, 
Vancouver is straining under an AIDS epidemic. When its needle exchange 
program began in 1988, HIV prevalence among IV drug users was less than two 
per cent. Today it's about 23 per cent, despite a city-wide program that 
dispenses 2.5 million needles a year."

The effectiveness of needle exchanges in inhibiting the spread of HIV, 
then, is in doubt.

Meanwhile, they just facilitate and perpetuate the agony of drug addiction.

If we would truly have compassion on those caught in its vicious grip, drug 
treatment facilities, though admittedly more costly, should be our 
priority, not needle exchanges!

Bert Warden
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