HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Gov, Pols Vow Needle Exchange Program
Pubdate: Wed, 01 Sep 2004
Source: Jersey Journal, The (NJ)
Copyright: 2004 The Jersey Journal
Author: Kathy Hennessy, Associated Press writer
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Stopping HIV and Hepatitis C Is Priority

TRENTON - Gov. James E. McGreevey has asked legislators and state
health officials to design a program that offers drug users clean
needles to slow the spread of AIDS and hepatitis C.

Health Commissioner Clifton Lacy said yesterday he met with
legislators earlier in the afternoon to work out details of the
program. A specific proposal was expected in upcoming weeks, he said.

"It's our intent to have this legislation crafted, moved through the
Legislature and to Gov. McGreevey by the end of his tenure," said Lacy.

McGreevey, who has been a supporter of needle exchange programs, will
leave office on Nov. 15 in the wake of a sex scandal.

Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, chairman of the Senate health
committee, said the talks are still in the early stages and many
details need to be worked out.

"We are trying to fashion a health policy through legislation that
will begin to stem to the tide of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New Jersey,"
said Vitale, a longtime supporter of needle exchange programs.

New Jersey is one of two states with neither a legal needle exchange
program nor a law allowing nonprescription sales of needles and syringes.

Under the working proposal, municipalities will be able to decide if
they want to have a needle exchange in their town, said Sen. Nia Gill,
D-Essex. The program will also provide addicts with referrals to
health care providers and counseling.

New Jersey had 62,752 reported cases of HIV - the fifth highest in the
United States - and a third of those cases were transmitted through
shared needles, according to state officials. The state is also the
third highest in the nation for pediatric AIDS cases, and one of every
three HIV victims is a woman.

"We have rates (of HIV/AIDS) in proportion to a Third World country,
and the people who are most affected are women and children," Gill

Critics object to having the government supply the means by which
users of heroin and other illegal drugs can inject them. Supporters
argue that addicts will shoot up anyway, and that allowing them to do
so with dirty needles leads to more infections.

A panel convened several years ago by former Gov. Christie Whitman
recommended needle exchanges to curb the spread of HIV and AIDS, but
Whitman rejected that suggestion, insisting it would send the wrong
message about drug use. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake