Pubdate: October 12, 1998
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Contact:  (c) 1998, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. All rights reserved.
Fax: (414) 224-8280


The idea of trying to prevent people from becoming deathly sick by giving
them needles to inject illegal drugs into their bodies seems
counterintuitive. But study after study by highly reputable organizations
has shown that needle exchange programs help stem the spread of HIV among
drug users, one of the prime ways AIDS is now being spread.

That's what's behind County Executive F. Thomas Ament's intelligent
decision to put $100,000 in next year's budget to support a successful
needle exchange program operated by the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

No, it's not surprising that Supervisors Richard Nyklewicz and Mark
Borkowski would introduce a resolution to remove the $100,000 from the
budget. Nyklewicz argues that the very act of providing needles to people
allows people to abuse their bodies and sends a mixed message about drug use.

While that position seems to make sense, studies show otherwise. Needle
exchange programs, including the one run by the AIDS Resource Center,
actually have encouraged many drug users to enter treatment programs
because they establish trust between drug users and the counselors who
exchange clean needles for contaminated ones.

Needle exchanges save not only lives, but money. Using figures from a
Medical College of Wisconsin report, Supervisor Lynne DeBruin points out
that the $100,000 investment could save about $345,000 a year in the
county's medical assistance program. This isn't about using taxpayer
dollars for drugs. It's about using taxpayer dollars for public health. 
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Checked-by: Mike Gogulski