Source: Reuters
Pubdate: Thu, 6 Nov 1997

NEW YORK (Reuters)  An overwhelming number of Americans support lifting a
ban on federal government HIV prevention money being spent on needle
exchange programs, a drug policy research institute said Thursday. 

It quoted a public opinion poll conducted last month when U.S. House and
U.S. Senate negotiators agreed to prohibit the Health and Human Services
Department from supporting needle exchanges until the end of March 1998. 

Authors of antidrug legislation are considering the issue of the programs,
which proponents believe protect illegal drug users against AIDS by
preventing the multiple use of potentially contaminated needles. Opponents
such as the Family Research Council believe needle exchanges encourage the

``The United States is virtually alone among advanced, industrialized
nations in prohibiting the funding of needle exchange programs,'' said
Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, which has cited studies
showing such programs dramatically reduce the spread of the virus that
causes AIDS among intravenous drug users. 

The Louis Harris Poll commissioned by the institute found that 71 percent
of adults believe that cities and states and not the federal government
should decide how to use the money allotted for HIV prevention. The current
law prohibits the use of federal money to carry out needle exchange programs. 

Harris pollsters surveyed 1,003 adults by telephone from October 15 through
19. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus three percent. 

When told that organizations such as the American Medical Association
approved of needle exchanges, 50 percent of respondents said they supported
the programs, according to the poll. The federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention and the American Public Health Association also
support the programs.