Pubdate: Sun, 21, 1999
Source: Star-Ledger (NJ)
Copyright: 1999 Newark Morning Ledger Co.
Contact:  1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, N.J., 07102-1200
Author: Jesse Drucker, Star Ledger Staff


Newark City Councilman Luis Quintana said he will introduce a resolution
next month urging the passage of state legislation that would create
so-called needle exchange programs in a effort to stem the spread of AIDS
virus among intravenous drug users.

The state legislation, which has been vigorously opposed by Gov. Christie
Whitman, was first introduced in 1993 by state Sen. Wynona Lipman, an Essex
County Democrat who died earlier this year.

Quintana made his announce at a sparsely attended forum on needle exchange
at City Hall in Newark. "On December 20th at 7 o'clock, we are going to
introduce the legislation whether the votes are there or not", Quintana said.

"Then," he added later, "we will know who voted for it and who voted
against it."

Whitman has said she would not be swayed by local officials' support for
needle exchange programs. New Jersey has the country's fifth-highest rate
of HIV infection due to intravenous drug use, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, but Whitman has said that needle exchange
sends the wrong message to young people about illegal drug use.

Among major metropolitan areas, Jersey City and Newark have the third and
fourth-highest rates of AIDS cases due to intravenous drug use, Several
organizations, including the CDC and the National Institutes of Health,
have concluded that syringe exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV
without increasing drug use.

Robert Johnson, director of the division of adolescent medicine at
University Hospital in Newark, said the reluctance to set up needle
exchange programs is another example of the country's "absolute failure" at
implementing efforts to prevent HIV infection.

"Needle exchange is the only means to remove the virus from our
communities," said Johnson. "Failure to support needle exchange is a
decision to hasten the deaths of many thousands of people in our community."

He contended that support for the state legislation is crucial to getting
it passed. Thus far, he said, "we don't have that strong support from the

Yesterday's forum was organized in part by a group funded with a grant from
billionaire philanthropist George Soros' Open Society Institute, which is
lobbying the city councils in Newark, Jersey City and Paterson and the
state Legislature to implement needle exchange.

In April, the Jersey City Council passed a resolution similar to the one
Quintana intends to introduce next month.

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