Pubdate: Wed, 27 Oct 2004
Source: Jersey Journal, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2004 The Jersey Journal
Author: Ken Thorbourne, Journal staff writer
Note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Cited: Hyacinth AIDS Foundation
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Jersey City Offered Weapon to Fight Crisis of Rising HIV Figures

With the HIV infection rates running high in the state's urban
centers, Gov. James E. McGreevey yesterday signed an executive order
giving three cities the opportunity to establish needle-exchange
programs for drug users.

Atlantic City and Camden - cities that already passed local laws to
start needle exchanges, but whose efforts were stalled without
legislative authority - were named as two of the participating
municipalities, and a third city would be eligible as well.

Four of the candidates in Jersey City's mayoral election Tuesday -
acting Mayor L. Harvey Smith, former Councilwoman Willie Flood,
Assemblyman Louis Manzo and Ward C Councilman Steve Lipski - said they
favored a needle-exchange program.

A fifth candidate, Councilman-at-Large Jerramiah Healy, said he does
not favor it.

Under McGreevey's executive order, cities with the highest prevalence
of HIV due to injection drug use would be eligible to start a needle
exchange program if they met two criteria: municipal commitment and an
ability to demonstrate to the state Department of Health and Senior
Services that participants in the program would have sufficient access
to health care facilities, social services and drug treatment.

There are an estimated 28,000 injection drug users in New Jersey,
according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services, which
says 51 percent of the state's 64,219 HIV/AIDS infections are related
to injection drug use.

 From 2000 to 2002, the number of infected Hudson residents went up by
14 percent, from 3,548 to 4,076, according to an analysis of federal
health statistics by the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, a statewide service
organization with an office in Jersey City.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in
Atlanta, 44 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases reported in Hudson since the
epidemic began were traced to intravenous drug use.

"We have to do anything we can do to fight drugs," said acting Mayor
Smith. "I want to look at the bill. I'm in favor of needle exchanges."

Manzo said he helped hold up a bill to establish needle exchange
programs until more money was put in for drug treatment centers.

"I held it up until they added $10 million for additional treatment
and bed space," said Manzo, who said if is elected mayor he would
establish a needle exchange program if the City Council voted in favor
of the idea. "We are 16,000 beds short on our demand (for drug
treatment) in Jersey City."

In an "ideal world," Lipski said he would be against the

"But research shows it would help reduce contagious and infectious
disease," he said.

Flood also expressed support.

"We need clean needles," said Flood. "I'm favor of it."

But a spokeswoman for Healy, Maria Pignataro, said the councilman
would not be in favor.

"He is all for helping people with drug addition, but as a former
prosecutor and judge, he doesn't believe needle exchange is the
answer," said Pignataro. "He thinks it is treating a symptom and not
treating the root of the problem."

Axel Torresmarrero, director of public policy for the Hyacinth AIDS
Foundation, said he was elated about McGreevey's executive order, but
said action could have been taken sooner had the debate not gotten

"During his campaign, the governor said he was in favor (of needle
exchange)," said Torresmarrero. "In New Jersey, it is not a public
health conversation. We analyze it from a criminal and drug use
perspective. In terms of epidemiology, it made no sense to not have
needle exchange."
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake