May 14, 2003
"This is a significant piece of legislation. It costs the state virtually no money, and it will prevent HIV infection," said Karen Reitan, state affairs director for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. After passing the House by a vote of 70-48 and clearing the Senate by a vote of 30-24, the bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Illinois, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware are the only states that require a prescription to buy syringes. Advocates have worked for several years to persuade legislators to change this. According to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, almost half of all new HIV infections result from IV drug use or sex with a drug user. "If people can have access to sterile syringes, they will, time after time, use clean syringes. The data has demonstrated very strongly that this really does help stem the spread of AIDS," said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), the bill's sponsor.
Critics of the bill contend that improper disposal of easy-to-buy needles could lead to accidents, and question whether addicts would go through the trouble and embarrassment of purchasing needles in a pharmacy without a prescription. Opponents also argue that easy access to needles might encourage illegal drug use in poorer communities.
05.14.03; Christi Parsons; Kate McCann
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