NEEDLE EXCHANGE: Program is Vital to Reduce Spread of HIV
Pushing for increased needle exchange programs, Marc Lasher, the Fresno Free Clinic medical director, argues in the Fresno Bee, "We all have a vested interest in lessening the suffering of individuals, the spread of communicable diseases and the staggering costs for treating each new additional person with AIDS." He notes that 50% of new HIV infections occur among injection drug users, their sexual partners and children, and that "study after study" credits needle exchange programs with "major reductions in injection drug users becoming infected with HIV." He also points out that scientifc and medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the NIH Consensus Panel, the surgeon general and the National Commission on AIDS, have endorsed needle programs. Lasher asserts that the "Board of Supervisors needs to act by allowing the volunteers of the local five-year-old needle exchange to continue their important health outreach of saving lives and stopping the spread of these deadly diseases in our own back yard. This medical issue needs to be taken out of the criminal jurisdiction and placed into the arena of community health." He concludes with a word of warning to IV drug users: "injection drug use is dangerous and risky, and if you can't stop then at least you need to use sterile syringes to lessen harm to oneself and others" (12/8).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.