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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Clean Needles for Drug Users Approved in D.C. AIDS Fight
Sanchez, Rene
June 24, 1992
Washington Post (06/24/92), P. D1

The Washington, D.C., Council decided yesterday to distribute clean hypodermic needles to IV-drug users as a means of thwarting the spread of HIV. Council members voted unanimously to allow the District's medical clinics to make needles available to addicts who are waiting for openings in treatment programs and who return used needles. Council member William Lightfoot said, "We have an epidemic on our hands and whatever we've been doing clearly has not been working." The council amended the city's drug paraphernalia law, which had prohibited needle distribution, in order for the needle exchange to be implemented. Federal drug czar Bob Martinez spoke to big-city mayors gathered in Houston, Texas, yesterday, and condemned the district's Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly for supporting needle exchange, which he called a "retreat" in the drug war. But Kelly commended the council's vote and argued against Martinez's criticism, claiming that a main reason HIV is spreading in the District is that IV-drug users often share tainted needles with one another. The decision authorizes the needle program only for several months, and the council still must vote on permanent legislation. While council members said they are likely to adhere to Kelly's plan, her program may be modified at a public hearing next week.