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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CALIFORNIA: Governor Signs Bills Expanding Drug Users' Access to Sterile Syringes
Diana Marcum
October 11, 2011
Los Angeles Times (10.11.11) - Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law two bills aimed at reducing the spread of hepatitis C and HIV.

SB 41 allows residents to purchase syringes at pharmacies without a prescription. California was one of the few states where such purchases are illegal, save for pilot programs in certain areas. SB 41 was written by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco).

The second bill, AB 604, permits the state to authorize needle-exchange programs in high-risk areas. This issue is being debated currently in Fresno, which has one of the highest rates of IV drug use in the country. Last month, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors rejected a plan to legalize a long-running NEP, even as county health officials warned that new HIV and hepatitis C infections were rising.

The League of California Cities and some police organizations opposed AB 604, introduced by Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), over concerns it would take away local control.

Dr. Marc Lasher, who runs a free medical clinic connected to the Fresno NEP, said AB 604 "allows us to do what's right health-wise for our patients and our community, and we'll never have to ask permission ever again from the Board of Supervisors." Brown pledged in his signing message that he will ask health officials to implement the law in a "constrained way, working closely not only with local health officers and police chiefs, but with neighborhood associations as well."