Needle Exchange Programs Morally Justified
The Florida legislature is currently weighing legislation, that if passed, will establish much needed needle exchange programs in the state. I sent the following letter to the Tallahassee Democrat in response to former Florida drug czar Bruce Grant’s vituperations against these harm reduction measures:
The only message that will be sent by failing to pass legislation establishing needle exchange programs is that the Florida legislature isn’t really concerned with the preventable cycle of disease and death that plague many intravenous drug users.
Despite numerous accusations against needle exchange programs, the empirical evidence paints an entirely different picture. A 2000 Department of Health and Human Services report by the U.S. Surgeon General states, “there is conclusive scientific evidence that syringe exchange programs . . . are an effective public health intervention that reduces the transmission of HIV and does not encourage the use of illegal drugs.”
A 2003 Human Rights Watch study further notes that “access to sterile syringes have been proven time and again to reduce HIV transmission without either encouraging drug use or increasing drug related crime.” Even though needle exchange programs stand accused of not even trying to address addiction, the National Institute for Health found “individuals in areas with needle exchange programs have an increased likelihood of entering drug treatment programs.”
Whatever one thinks of drug use, morally or ethically, intravenous drug users are not some sub-human class of people. They are our family members, friends, and neighbors. So lets stop treating them like second-class citizens unworthy of the benefits of a cost-effective program to help address easily preventable disease. It’s time to pass HB 735 and SB 808.