HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Governor Signs Berg's Clean-needle Bill
Pubdate: Sat, 08 Oct 2005
Source: Lake County Record-Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2005 Record-Bee


SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday signed a bill by
Assemblywoman Patty Berg that makes it easier for cities and counties
to maintain needle-exchange programs that fight the spread of AIDS and

"This bill very simply saves lives," said Berg, D-Eureka. "I'm very
happy that it has been signed into law."

Assembly Bill 547 will reduce red tape by eliminating a section of
state law that requires cities and counties to declare a health
emergency every two weeks in order to continue operating a
needle-exchange program.

Several county health officers have said they would be more likely to
initiate needle-exchange programs if Berg's bill becomes law.
Needle-exchange programs fight the spread of blood-borne diseases that
threaten not just intravenous drug users, but also people whose lives
are knowingly or unknowingly linked to them.

"This is a great moment for public health," said Dr. Ann Lindsay,
public health officer for Humboldt County. "This bill will allow at
least six more counties to conduct needle-exchange programs and
protect not only injection drug users, but their families from
infectious disease."

Last year, the governor vetoed a similar bill by Berg. But this year,
Berg and her supporters managed to garner the support of key law
enforcement groups.

In addition to sponsorship by California's public health officers, the
bill had backing from the California Peace Officers' Association and
the California Narcotic Officers' Association.

In California, more than 1,800 people die of AIDS every year, and
1,500 new infections occur through syringe sharing among intravenous
drug users. Another 5,000 people become infected with Hepatitis C in
the same manner.

The following 14 cities and counties operate needle-exchange programs:
the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Humboldt, Marin, Mendocino,
Monterey, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma
and Ventura, and the cities of Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Health officers from Butte, Inyo, Riverside, Sacramento, Siskiyou,
Solano and Yolo counties have expressed interest in operating exchange
programs if Berg's bill becomes law.

Injection drug users are the second-largest group at risk of HIV
infection, and are the primary source of heterosexual, female and
perinatal transmission. 
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