Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jan 2003
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2003 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Author: Roland Foster


"Program for exchanging needles to be reviewed" (B-1, Jan. 5): Advocates of 
San Diego's needle-exchange program for drug addicts claim "it's a 
preventive measure" and the "numbers look pretty good."

The information provided indicates that this hypothesis is wishful thinking 
at best. The primary intent of needle exchange is to prevent injection drug 
addicts from becoming infected with HIV, hepatitis and other infectious 
diseases. Yet neither the needle-exchange advocates or your report provided 
any data to demonstrate that the program has indeed decreased new 
infections. Advocates provide only the number of needles handed out and 
returned as evidence of success.

Tragically, 3,000 of the 18,000 needles returned to the program - nearly 
one in five - were turned in by the mother of an addict who died from AIDS. 
Not even 3,000 needles could save one person from HIV or from his own 
addiction. Needle-exchange programs are also touted as a link between 
addicts and drug treatment. But according to your report, only 37 out of 
the hundreds of addicts participating in the program were actually referred 
to treatment. And being referred to treatment should not be confused with 
actually being treated. Ironically, while San Diego provides a countless 
supply of free needles to addicts, the city has a shortage of space for 
drug treatment. The city should rethink its priorities that at this time 
are enabling addicts to continue their self-destructive behavior at the 
expense of treating and prevention addiction.

ROLAND FOSTER Staff Member Committee on Government Reform U.S. House of 
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