Assembly Approves Needle Exchange Bill
A bill (AB 2871) that would facilitate the operation of needle-exchange programs for injection drug users cleared the Assembly this week and is headed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), the Eureka Times-Standard reports (Eureka Times-Standard, 8/26). If signed into law, the bill would allow the 14 municipalities that currently run needle-exchange programs to decide how to monitor their programs (California Healthline, 5/11). Nine other communities may create needle-exchange programs if the bill becomes law (Eureka Times-Standard, 8/26).
As approved by the Assembly, the bill would eliminate a section of state law requiring counties to declare a public health emergency every two weeks to continue operating needle-exchange programs, which are designed to prevent HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C from spreading through syringe sharing among illicit drug users. Before the vote, Assembly member Patty Berg (D-Santa Rosa), the legislation's sponsor, eliminated measures that Schwarzenegger did not support, including a provision that would have decriminalized possession of the needles (Siders, Stockton Record, 8/26).
Each year, syringe sharing leads to 1,500 new HIV/AIDS infections in the state and 5,000 hepatitis C infections. Public health officials who support the bill said that needle-exchange programs protect illicit drug users as well as people who "unknowingly expose themselves to this risk during sex" and "children born to these unions," the Times-Standard reports (Eureka Times-Standard, 8/26). However, the bill's opponents say needle-exchange programs "condon[e] drug use" and fail to "address the drug problem," the Record reports (Siders, Stockton Record, 8/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.