Pubdate: Fri, 20 Aug 1999
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle
Author: Richard A. Evans, MD


On Aug. 16, James T. Campbell wrote a remarkable Sounding Board column
("Mayor Brown, AIDS is a problem in the city") -- remarkable for what it
didn't say.

Nowhere did Campbell mention needle exchange programs even though about 50
percent of all new HIV infections occur among injecting drug users, their
sexual partners and their offspring.

The AIDS virus is spread when drug users share needles contaminated with the
AIDS virus.

During the past 10 years, over 100 needle exchange programs across the
country have successfully reduced the spread of AIDS among injecting drug

Scientific studies have concluded that these programs do not increase drug
use and, in fact, may reduce drug use by providing a gateway to drug
treatment and rehabilitation.

Every established medical, scientific and legal body to study this issue
concurs that needle exchange programs are effective. Even the American
Medical Association has said the need for such programs is "urgent."

However, they are illegal in Texas. It is against the law to sell or
dispense "paraphernalia" which may be used to administer illegal drugs.

This law does not reduce drug use, but it does foster the spread of AIDS.

Drug use and abuse are medical and public health matters and need to be
managed by doctors and public-health officials.

Richard A. Evans, Houston

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