Pubdate: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 Source: The Herald, Everett (WA) Contact: http://www.heraldnet.com/ Author: Laura Meckler - Associated Press Writer NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAM NECESSARY, SURGEON GENERAL SAYS WASHINGTON ( AP) -- The nation's new surgeon general said Friday 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 science shows that such programs prevent the spread of HIV without increasing drug use. However, the White House decided against using federal money to support them, agreeing with those who say that buying needles for addicts sends the wrong message. Asked about the decision, Dr. David Satcher said that as a scientist 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 in an interview Friday. "It would be great if we could do it without the political overtones." Also Friday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus called for the resignation of President Clinton's drug policy chief, Barry McCaffrey, who had urged Clinton to withhold federal money for the programs. "This is a life-and-death issue," said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. "You can save lives with needle exchange distribution as we try to work at getting rid of drugs in our society." In response, McCaffrey said black leaders should think twice before endorsing needle exchange programs in neighborhoods where drugs are rampant. Such program provide clean needles to drug users in exchange for used, possibly contaminated, 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 in a statement. White House spokesman Mike McCurry added that the president supports McCaffrey and is confident in the needle exchange decision. "The president is very supportive of the work that he's done," McCurry said. At an announcement of the administration's policy on Monday, Satcher had said that more money for needle exchange programs would save lives. But with the administration trying to show a united front, Satcher had sidestepped a question about whether he was personally 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 it was one of several positions criticized by Senate conservatives opposed to his nomination.