Pubdate: Tue, 28 Mar 2006
Source: Tribune Review (Pittsburgh, PA)
Copyright: 2006 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Caroline Jean Acker


If the Trib is going to make claims about hepatitis C and HIV rates in
Allegheny County, it should do its homework ("The needle-exchange
program: This is 'success'?" March 24).

Rising numbers of positive hepatitis C tests almost certainly reflect
larger numbers of people being tested. They are no fair measure of
levels of hepatitis C in the population.

Similarly, simply giving a number of positive HIV tests fails to
indicate how many were linked to injection drug use as opposed to
other risk factors. And again, results of voluntary tests, where only
those who seek testing are tested, do not measure levels of a disease
in the population.

The numbers presented in the Trib's editorial say nothing about the
effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of needle exchange in Allegheny
County. To present numbers of positive test results with no indication
of how they were derived and no context for interpreting them is worse
than sloppy; it is irresponsible.

Needle exchange modeled on the latest research is our best protection
against the spread of hepatitis C. That is exactly what Prevention
Point Pittsburgh provides. The best response to finding cases of
hepatitis C is not less needle exchange, but more.

Caroline Jean Acker

Highland Park

The writer is board president of Prevention Point Pittsburgh
(, a private organization that provides needle exchange and
overdose prevention services. 
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