New York Times (NY)
Pubdate: Wed, 22 Apr 1998


In a calculated duck, the Clinton Administration has refused to lift a
nine-year-old ban on using Federal money to finance needle exchange

Officials readily admit that repeated studies have shown needle exchange
programs can help prevent the spread of AIDS without encouraging illegal
drug use. But Barry McCaffrey, the Administration's drug czar, continues to
insist that needle exchange programs send a message to children that drugs
are acceptable.

His preoccupation with symbolism flies in the face of brutal facts. The
Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, says that 40 percent of all new H.I.V.
infections are directly or indirectly caused by contaminated needles,
including cases in infants born to infected drug abusers or their infected

The Administration hoped that by keeping the current ban, liftable at White
House discretion, it could fend off more repressive legislation. But
conservatives in Congress are poised to offer anti-needle-exchange bills
anyway. Instead of making a principled decision, President Clinton is
fecklessly trying to appease conservatives with a policy that will cost
thousands of lives.