Source:   Bakersfield Californian
Contact:     September 1, 1997

1701 I Street,Bakersfield,CA,93302
(Fax 8053957499, print run 92,481)

Editorial: Needle exchange funding beneficial
  If the Clinton administration does not lift a federal ban on funding
of needle exchange programs on its own hook, Congress should move on
legislation forcing it to do so.
  Needle exchange programs are designed to slow the spread of AIDS among
intravenous drug abusers by dispensing free, sterile syringes for
infected ones. Transmission of HIV  the virus that causes AIDS  by 
infected needles has long been one of the big risk factors for 
contracting AIDS, and is growing as a proportion of the epidemic's 
new population.  The risk is acompound one. Shared infected needles 
transmit the virus directly. In addition, almost by definition 
intravenous drug abusers are both
young and sexually active. Thus, they may contract the disease from
thei rdrugtaking partners, then spread it to their sexual partners. 
If the risk is heightened, so would the benefit of ideas to reduce 
it.  Another premise is that while intravenous drug abusers may be
compelled by their addiction, many understand the risk of HIV 
infection and are willing to take steps to reduce it if the 
opportunity to do so is available and simple.
  Because a number of states  including California  ban needle
programs and because of longstanding political opposition, there has
been an
executive order banning federal funding for such programs.
  But growing experience with such programs from around the world and
extensive epidemiological studies indicate the benefits. Support is
  The proposal for funding would not force states to have such programs,
would simply ease the financial burden for those areas that wish to have
  But there is a secondary benefit. Federal law bans support for any
that could further an illegal activity. Ironically, one of the best run
effective needle exchange programs in the country is in San Francisco.
though the activity is illegal in California, public and local
support for the program allows it to operate with tacit approval.
  There are activities associated with the program  such as drug
counseling and instruction on needle emergency sterilization procedures
which are perfectly legal and above board, but whose federal funding
could be
jeopardized by their close association with the needle exchange program.
  Easing of funding regulations relating to needle exchange programs
lessen the funding risk to such ancillary activities.
(NOTE: For those who would like to contact their Congressman/woman about
issue, a House bill to lift a ban on funding needle exchanges has been
introduced by Democrats Pelosi and Cummings. The bill number is H.R.
2212 and
it has been referred to the Committee on Commerce.)