An editorial in yesterday s New York Times praises New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has signed a bill that will permit pharmacies to sell a limited number of syringes to individuals without prescriptions. The new law represents a quintessential example of harm reduction: By making clean needles readily accessible to intravenous drug users, who often share contaminated needles, the state will slow the spread of blood-borne viruses like H.I.V. This is no small feat, given that intravenous drug users have accounted for more than 40 percent of the H.I.V./AIDS cases reported in New Jersey since the epidemic began.
Harm reduction works, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. We ve seen it work in other areas, and there s no reason it shouldn t work in New Jersey. He points out that, in particular, such clean needle programs benefit the public at large: Not only is the infection rate of addicts reduced, but this in turn reduces the spread from infected addicts to non-users.