Pubdate: Sat, 06 Nov 1999
Source: Rocky Mountain News (CO)
Copyright: 1999 Denver Publishing Co.
Contact:  400 W. Colfax, Denver, CO 80204
Author: Lou Kilzer, RM News Staff

Surgeon General: Programs Would Reduce Spread Of HIV

The nation's top medical official backed needle-exchange programs on
Friday in Denver during the opening day of the U.S. Conference on AIDS.

Surgeon General David Satcher said such programs can "significantly
reduce the spread of HIV," the virus most experts say is the cause of

Controversial exchange programs like one Denver tried to start a few
years ago allow drug addicts to turn in dirty needles for clean ones
with no questions asked.

Opponents say the programs promote drug addiction, even though health
workers argue that sharing of dirty needles is one of the leading
reasons for the spread of AIDS.

Denver health workers tried to start an exchange program in 1997, even
though possession of drug paraphernalia is illegal in Colorado. The
legislature in 1998 killed an effort to amend the law to allow exchanges.

"You do not deserve a death sentence because you're addicted," Satcher

The conference has drawn about 3,000 delegates from around the world
to Denver's Adams Mark Hotel to share stories, push products and
declare to all that the epidemic not only persists but is expanding.

Peter Piot, executive director of the United Nations AIDS program
UNAIDS, used large round numbers to picture the epidemic. He said that
6 million people a year become infected with HIV, and "nine out of 10
do not even know they are infected."

Piot said Africa is the grim center of the worldwide

"Unless the entire world unites to respond, the catastrophe we know
today will pale in comparison with what is to come," Piot said. "In
short, Africa's very survival is at stake."

The AIDS community has been on a roller-coaster ride in recent

In 1997, several journalists and a few researchers had used the word
"cure" when describing a new class of AIDS-fighting drugs called
protease inhibitors. Since then, more and more patients are failing on
the drugs.

Satcher underlined that fact by declaring that, however helpful the
new drugs are, they "are not a cure."

Satcher also recommended that children abstain form having sex as a
way to prevent the spread of AIDS.

"Sex is beautiful, sex is great," but sex is also something young
people should consider putting off, he said.

"Relationships do not begin with sex." 

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