Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Pubdate: Sat, 25 Apr 1998
Fax: 213-237-4712

Editor blunder:  This really isn't an editorial piece.


WASHINGTON--New Surgeon General David Satcher said he's disappointed by the
Clinton administration's decision not to use federal money for needle
exchange 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."

Studies have shown that AIDS-fighting programs that provide clean needles
to drug users prevent the spread of HIV without increasing drug use.
However, the White House this week decided against federally funding such

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. His stance on the issue was one of several criticized by
Senate conservatives opposed to his nomination.

Such programs provide clean needles to drug users in exchange for used
- -possibly contaminated -ones.

President Clinton's science advisers had wanted to lift the ban on federal
money for needle exchange programs. At the last minute, however, the White
House sided with opponents, including Clinton's drug policy chief, Barry

On Friday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus called for McCaffrey's

"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

"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.

Studies suggest that half of all people who contract HIV are infected by
using dirty needles, having sex with injecting drug users or being born to
infected addicts.

The government reported this week that HIV infections have remained
relatively steady over time, despite an historic drop in AIDS cases and
deaths because of new drugs.

The CDC report also found minorities making up a larger proportion of the
infected population, something the Congressional Black Caucus seized on
Friday as it denounced the administration's decision.

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