Wednesday, April 13, 2005

AIDS and needle exchange

From "Common Sense for Drug Policy" :

Intravenous drug use accounts for the majority of HIV cases in China, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, the Baltic states, and all of Central Asia, as well as much of Southeast Asia and South America. In Russia, where there are now more cases of HIV than in NOrth America, as many as 80% of infections are attributed to injection drug use.

"A large body of scientific evidence suggests that nthe free provision of clean needles curbs teh spread of AIDS among drug users without increasing rates of addiction, " said the US Surgeon General. Needle exchanges have been endorsed by the AMA, the American Public Health Association, the National Academy of Sciences and the World Health Organization.

Despite these ringing recommendations, the State Department just sent a blunt message to the UN office responsible for drug education saying essentially: Shut up about needle exchanges or lose funding. Since the US is one of the major donors to the UN office on Drugs and Crime, the UN quickly folded. All references to harm reduction approaches are being deleted.

The New York Times summed it up: "Washington's antipathy toward needle exchanges is a triumph of ideology over science, logic and compassion. The United States should help pay for these important programs. If it cannot bring itself to do so, it should at least allow the rest of the world to get on with saving million of lives."

Ok ... now my first thought --- isn't intravenous drug use -like- bad for you? Wouldn't the added danger of getting AIDS -on top of the "it's a bad thing already" - contribute to efforts to keep kids off drugs??? Exactly what is the message when you say "Yes, drug use is bad, and could kill you, but if you use this nice clean needle, you won't get AIDS"? What are you saving them FROM? A long life as a junkie? I'm not exactly sure this is how I feel - but it was the first thing that came to me.

So ... discuss. Try to convince me it's a good thing.