Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jun 2002
Source: Herald, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The Herald
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Rock Hill's Gregory Doster is to be commended for his efforts to raise 
awareness of the link between intravenous drug use and HIV. Needle-exchange 
programs have been proven to reduce HIV transmission without increasing 
drug use.

Unfortunately, such programs often give rise to a NIMBY reaction. An 
alternative is syringe deregulation. Allowing drug users to purchase 
needles in pharmacies without a prescription has the added benefit of not 
costing taxpayers a dime. Regardless of the distribution mechanism, access 
to clean needles is critical.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 57 percent of 
AIDS cases among women are linked to injection drug use or sex with 
partners who inject drugs.

Overall, 36 percent of AIDS cases in the U.S. 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. 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

Arlington, Va.

Mr. Sharpe is program officer with the Drug Policy Alliance.
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