Pubdate: Wed, 07 Jun 2006
Source: Home News Tribune (East Brunswick, NJ)
Copyright: 2006 Home News Tribune
Author: Richard Khavkine
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)
Bookmark: (New Jersey)


The evidence is incontrovertible. Study after study conducted since 
the early 1990s show that needle-exchange programs greatly reduce the 
spread of HIV and AIDS among intravenous drug users.

Despite that evidence -- culled from research by the Department of 
Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention, the National Academy of Sciences, the General Accounting 
Office and the World Health Organization, among other agencies -- 
some of New Jersey's political class stubbornly refuse to institute a 
mechanism that would allow and encourage users to trade their used 
needles for new ones. And cut down on the state's abysmally high rate 
of HIV and AIDS.

New AIDS cases among intravenous drug users nationwide have declined 
dramatically in the past 13 years, according to the CDC, attributable 
at least in part to increased use of clean needles. New Jersey's AIDS 
rate for IV drug users, though, is about twice the national average, 
according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

Since the early 1990s, efforts to legislate access to clean needles 
have been on the agenda every year but one.

New Jersey and Delaware remain the country's only states without 
legislatively sanctioned forms of needle exchanges.

This year, three of the state's most powerful politicians -- Gov. Jon 
Corzine, state Senate President Richard Codey and Assembly Speaker 
Joseph Roberts Jr. -- support clean-needle legislation. But, as in 
past years, a Democratic state senator and key member of the Senate's 
Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, Ronald L. Rice, 
is helping to thwart a vote on the issue.

Rice, a former Marine and Newark police officer who recently came a 
distant second to Cory Booker in that city's mayoral election, 
contends needle-exchange programs are a form of racial genocide.

A 1998 study revealed that an addict might inject drugs upward of 
1,000 times a year. According to a 2002 federal CDC report, 
"Injection drug use is linked to almost one-third of all AIDS cases 
and one-half of hepatitis C cases."

That's not a pretty equation.

Still, Rice contends that giving drug users access to clean needles 
would not only condone the use of heroin but could even encourage it.

Try explaining that to someone who, given little choice, injects 
drugs up to three times a day with dirty needles.

Notwithstanding Rice's awkward logic, those numerous 
government-sponsored studies show that legal access to clean needles 
does not translate into increased drug use.

In fact, administrators of needle-exchange programs throughout the 
country are often at the vanguard of substance-abuse prevention.

Then again, a more calculating -- but politically expedient -- logic 
might be behind the reasoning of those against the needle-exchange programs.

Junkies, after all, can't be counted to show up to the polls. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake