December 4, 2002
Boston already has a needle exchange program -- one of four in the state -- that is designed to help curb the spread of HIV. Currently, a doctor's prescription is required to purchase a syringe. Supporters argue that over-the-counter sales would further reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis among drug users. Opponents say it would condone drug use. "It's the wrong direction to be going in. It would encourage further drug abuse by making needles more available," said Gerry D'Avolio, executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, which represents the Catholic Church on public policy issues.
John Auerbach, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said pharmacies in Connecticut are allowed to sell needles without prescriptions, and studies have shown the rate of needle sharing among addicts there has dropped. In October, California Gov. Gray Davis vetoed a similar bill.
According to a report issued Monday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, some 32 percent of all AIDS cases in the state are attributable to IV drug use -- about the same number as those cases linked to homosexual transmission. In certain areas of the state, however, as many as 45 percent of cases are linked to IV drug use.
12.03.02; Michael Lasalandra
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