Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Pubdate: Sat, 25 Apr 1998
Author: Laura Meckler, AP


WASHINGTON - The country's surgeon general said yesterday that he is
disappointed by the Clinton administration's decision to bar federal
funding for AIDS-fighting programs that give clean needles to drug users.
The administration said this week that sci ence shows that such programs
prevent the spread of HIV without increasing drug use. However, the White
House decided against lifting the ban on federal money for needle exchange
programs, and agreed with those who say that buying needles for addicts
send s the wrong message.  Asked about the decision, Surgeon General David
Satcher said he is ''disappointed'' any time resources are not available
to fund effective programs.  ''We said very clearly that they do not
increase drug use,'' he said. ''It would be great if we could do it
without the political overtones.'' Also yesterday, members of the
Congressional Black Caucus called for the resignation of President
Clinton's drug policy chief, Barry McCaffrey, who had urged Clinton to w
ithhold federal money for the programs.  ''This is a life-and-death
issue,'' said Representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California.

''You can save lives with needle exchange distribution as we try to work
at getting rid of drugs in our society.'' McCaffrey said black leaders
should think twice before endorsing needle exchange programs in
neighborhoods where drugs are rampant. 

The programs provide clean needles to drug users in exchange for used
ones. ''If you're a parent already fighting to bring your children up
right and protect them from drugs, you have to ask: `Do I want one of
these programs on my corner or near my child' s school?''' he said. White
House spokesman Michael McCurry said the president supports McCaffrey and
is confident in the needle exchange decision. At an announcement of the
administration's policy on Monday, Satcher had said that more money for
needle ex change programs would save lives. 

But he had sidestepped a question about whether he was disappointed. 
Satcher, who took office two months ago, has supported needle exchange
programs since he was director of the federal Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, and was criticized for it by Senate conservatives opposed
to his nomination.  Satcher said it is ''critical'' for local communities
to come together and establish their own needle exchange programs if they
feel comfortable with them. ''They should find the funds,'' he said.  

Studies suggest that half of all people who contract HIV are infected by
needles or by sex with injecting drug users, or are children of infected
addicts.  The CDC reported this week that HIV infections have remained
relatively steady, despite a drop in AIDS cases and deaths because of new
drugs. The CDC also said that minorities are making up a growing
percentage of the infected population.  Satcher argued that the
administration decision to endorse the programs - even without federal
money - is significant, despite protests about the continued funding ban.