Indiana Gov. allows clean needle exchange, at last, to stem HIV epidemic

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HIVstructure_Carlos_exeAn outbreak of IV-drug-induced HIV in Scott County, IN a poor, rural region just across the Ohio from Louisville KY has spurred Gov. Pence to reverse his position on needle exchange in the county. Over 70 cases of the viral contagion have been diagnosed in a county with a population of only 24,000 residents, another 9 are pending confirmation and who knows how many more are anticipated. The outbreak began in December.

Federal law forbids funding needle-exchange programs, although there is zero evidence that such harm-reduction tactics encourage the spread of drug abuse, as opponents fear. Indeed, according to the Times article, even the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the [CDC] say such programs can impede the spread of infectious diseases like H.I.V. and hepatitis C. Gov. Pence, a conservative Republican, delayed implementing the exchange program he is now approving, and has supported Indiana s state proscription on needle exchange, only carving out a 30-day exemption for Scott County at this point.

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this perspective: Three points manifest themselves regarding this news: 1-Gov. Pence is to be commended for reversing his stance on allowing clean needles exchange in an attempt to impede the spread of HIV among Scott County s IVDUs, despite his inherent (albeit baseless and ill-advised) distaste for the practice; 2-It s too bad that public leaders such as Pence allow their superstitions about health-related matters to interfere with their duty to enhance the public health of their citizens, whatever their personal misgivings. US Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop, an old ACSH friend who passed away 2 years ago, was a strongly religious man who was no friend of gay rights, yet he was a fervent supporter of AIDS/HIV research and treatment in whatever form would help the most people. He dissociated his personal beliefs from his public health mission an example for all; 3-We find it ultra-hypocritical that, in the cause of maybe one-hundred new HIV cases, the CDC has come out in support of harm reduction practices such as clean needle exchange yet when it comes to tobacco harm reduction, where hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of Americans health stands in the balance, they have commenced an expensive campaign against reduced-harm products based solely on ideology and greed, completely abandoning their mission at the likely cost of many thousands of lives.

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom questions the logic of the 30 day exemption: So, taken at face value, this means that in a month it somehow makes sense to encourage drug users to restart sharing needles so this can happen again? Hmm, what s the word I m looking for ¦.? Oh yeah idiocy. That s it.