Pubdate: Fri, 06 Aug 2004
Source: Enterprise, The (MA)
Copyright: 2004 The Enterprise
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


It should be clear by now that most drug users are going to take their
 with or without the "help" of the public. If a dirty needle is all they
have,  they will use it. That is reality.

Still, Massachusetts is just one of five states that hasn't faced that
fact. Forty-five states do not require a prescription to buy a
syringe; Massachusetts  still makes that demand. The theory is that
allowing access to clean needles  promotes drug use. But this is the
same flawed logic that prevents promoting use  of condoms. People
won't stop having sex just because they aren't protected;  most of
them will do it anyway.

The Legislature could have remedied this problem, and several bills
were filed this year to allow the sale of syringes without
prescriptions. They made it out of the Health Care Committee, but
stalled in the House Ways and Means Committee. That means more
infections from needles being passed among drug addicts who already
have a high rate of infection of AIDS, HIV, hepatitis C and other diseases.

There is another way for a drug user to get a clean needle, but it is
not easy. Four communities have needle exchange programs, but they are
in Boston, Cambridge, Provincetown and Northampton. It is impractical
to think that any drug user from southeastern Massachusetts is going
to travel that far to get a clean needle.

We have not given up on trying to curb drug use and get these people
clean. That is not obviated by allowing them to use clean needles as
they try to break  their habits. The cities with needle-exchange
programs have a lower rate of disease attributed to intravenous drug
use than the five cities targeted by needle-exchange advocates this
week. In Boston, 28 percent of AIDS and HIV cases  are connected to
needle use. In Provincetown, the rate is 7 percent. In New  Bedford,
Lynn and Worcester, where addicts are far from legal and clean
needles,  the rates are 60 percent and higher.

We should never stop trying to break every single addict's drug habit.
But in the meantime, the failure to allow access to clean needles
means that not only  are drug addicts being infected with deadly
diseases, they are being passed to  their partners and innocent children.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin