Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco) (09.13.07) - Thursday,
On Wednesday, the California State Assembly voted 43-30 for a
bill to allow state HIV/AIDS funds to be used to buy syringes
for needle exchange programs (NEPs). If Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger signs AB 110 into law, NEPs would have to match
43 cents in general funds for every dollar in state funding
used to purchase syringes.
By promoting sterile needle use, NEPs are credited with
decreasing hepatitis C and HIV rates among injection drug
users (IDUs), for whom needle-sharing can transmit the blood-
borne diseases. The bill's author, Assembly member John Laird
(D-Santa Cruz), said support for the measure has grown as
people realize the programs are working.
Last week, a report by the national Center for Health
Improvement found that although local California jurisdictions
are empowered to authorize NEPs, most do not. In San
Francisco, health officials support NEPs that together
distribute about 2.5 million needles per year.
"San Francisco has been so progressive in the distribution of
needles, and we still don't have enough funds to meet the
need," said Tracey Brown, executive director of Tenderloin
Health, which provides about 200,000 needles per year. More
money would help keep supplies from running out every couple
of months, Brown noted.
Advocates who worked with the governor's office to craft AB
110 are optimistic Schwarzenegger will sign the measure.