Source: Boston Globe (MA) Contact: http://www.boston.com/globe/ Pubdate: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 Author: Laura Meckler, AP NEEDLE DECISION DECRIED 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.