Pubdate: Fri, 15 Aug 2003
Source: Worcester Magazine (MA)
Copyright: 2003 by Worcester Publishing Ltd
Author: Kim Hanna 
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Thank you for this fine report on the status of funding for HIV and
AIDS testing in Worcester (WM, "AIDS and the blame game," July 24).

Recent reports show a major increase in AIDS cases and a sharp
increase in new HIV infections.

An increased supply of very pure heroin is leading to an increase in
IV drug users and, without a supply of hypodermic syringes, addicts
will be sharing needles.

In the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Governor Romney and our
politicians have cut the funds for testing by 40% in the last 18 months.

I'm sorry to say that these actions border on being criminal.  A
public health catastrophe in the making here.

It can cost $200,000. per year to treat an AIDS patient; with most of
the money paid by the public.  It is morally and fiscally
irresponsible to reduce HIV and AIDS testing.

The experience of states such as Minnesota and Connecticut that have
deregulated needle sales consistently show a decrease in needle
sharing; and a reduction in new hepatitis and HIV infections after
syringe sales are deregulated.

In Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich recently signed into law a measure
that will allow anyone age 18 and older to buy hypodermic needles
without a prescription. The law will allow individuals to purchase up
to 20 needles at a time from a pharmacy. Pharmacies will be required
to offer the buyer educational materials on drug treatment and safe
needle disposal.

Supporters of the law say that it will reduce the spread of injection
related HIV and Hepatitis C generally and particularly the rate of
mother-to-child HIV transmission, since 96% of all HIV-positive
infants are born to a parent who was infected from dirty needles.

Most new HIV cases come from shared needles.

Because HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases are easily
spread through the sharing of needles by injection drug users, most
states have moved to allow for access to sterile syringes to stem
these disease epidemics.

The Illinois law that allows for syringe sales without a prescription
leaves only 5 states (New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
and Massachusetts) with prescription requirements.

New Jersey Gov. James E.  McGreevey has called for a pilot
needle-exchange program that would allow addicts to turn in old
syringes - 80 percent of which have been found to be infected with the
virus that causes AIDS and/or Hepatitis C - for new ones.

Since Gov. Romney and the legislature have reduced HIV/AIDS testing;
they should at least quickly move to make hypodermic syringes
available without prescription.

This will come as a relief to residents of Worcester, a city that
refuse to allow a needle exchange program.

Needle sales will benefit every community in Massachusetts, as we move
through this HIV/AIDS crisis.

Kim Hanna

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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin