Pubdate: Tue, 16 Apr 2002
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2002 The Fresno Bee
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


According to your April 10 article, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors 
has agreed to look into the possibility of a needle-exchange program. The 
doctors and drug treatment experts who proposed the harm-reduction measure 
have no doubt informed the board that needle-exchange programs have been 
proven to reduce HIV transmission without increasing drug use.

Unfortunately, such programs often give rise to a "not in my back yard" 
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% 
of AIDS cases among women are linked to injection drug use or sex with 
partners who inject drugs. Overall, 36% 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. 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, M.P.A.

Program Officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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