Source: Associated Press Pubdate: Fri, 24 Apr 1998 Author: Dale Hopper - Associated Press Writer NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAMS EXPANDING BALTIMORE (AP) -- David Purchase was angered by the Clinton administration's refusal to allow federal money to buy clean needles for drug addicts, even though officials admitted that such exchange programs fight AIDS without encouraging drug use. "No guts, no glory," said Purchase, chairman of a needle exchange advocacy group, which is holding its national convention through today. Despite the president's hesitation, Purchase has seen the number of programs balloon since the start of the Tacoma, Wash.-based North American Syringe Exchange Network. About half of the programs are illegal, he said. In response to Clinton's statement, international financier George Soros on Thursday offered $1 million in matching funds to support needle exchange programs around the country. The Soros pledge "was in the works, and we decided to announce it when the federal government decided not to fund programs," said Ty Trippet of the Lindesmith Center, a drug policy research organization that is part of the Soros-sponsored Open Society Institute. In 1991, there were fewer than 10 needle exchange programs in the country, said Purchase. Now there are 134 programs in 34 states and U.S. territories. They handed out 17.5 million syringes to 121,000 "injectors" last year, he said. NASEN serves as a clearinghouse for information and buys needles in bulk to sell to needle exchange programs. Baltimore's health department has run a needle exchange program for three years and received permission this year from the state to continue indefinitely. "I'm convinced if we can get the president over here, we can change his opinion," Mayor Kurt Schmoke said. Baltimore's program, providing needles to about 7,000 addicts at a cost of about $300,000 per year, is the largest city-run needle exchange in the country, Schmoke said. It pays for itself if just three people avoid the costs of AIDS-related hospitalization, he said. "You've got to demonstrate widespread grass-roots support," said city health commissioner Peter Beilenson. "You've got to get beyond the advocacy groups or it won't get widely used." Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.