BLOGGER VS. BLOGGER: Unproven Theories Hinder U.S. Needle Exchange Programs
Researchers this week at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., presented two studies demonstrating the effectiveness of needle exchange programs in reducing HIV transmission.
The first study showed that Amsterdam’s needle exchange program drastically reduced HIV infection rates among injection drug users. The second study found that a 10% expansion of U.S. needle exchange programs at a cost of $64 million annually could result in savings of $193 million.
Richard Knox in NPR’s “Shots” noted that Don Des Jarlais, a coauthor of the second study, said that “Congress has barred federal support of needle exchange, largely in the belief (never proved) that providing clean needles increases illicit drug use.”
However, former British Health Secretary Norman Fowler in The Hill‘s “On Congress Blog” argued that the HIV stigma is the real reason why countries do not finance and adopt these programs, which have been scientifically proven to reduce HIV transmission. “There is discrimination in the workplace and in the community,” Fowler wrote.
OUR TAKE: Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. — where HIV rates are the highest in the nation — and other foreign governments that are serious about reducing HIV transmission should stop citing unproven theories and try to replicate the success of Amsterdam’s needle exchange program. The effort has the potential to reduce social stigma attached to the virus.
by Heather Drost, staff writer