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New York Times
Editorial: Clean Needles in New Jersey

December 14, 2011
The New York Times - December 14, 2011

The New Jersey State Assembly made a sensible, life-saving decision this month when it approved a bill[http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/nj_assembly_passes_bill_to_all.html] that allows pharmacies to sell a limited number of syringes to individuals without prescriptions. The bill[http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2010/Bills/A1500/1088_I1.PDF] has passed the Senate, and Gov. Chris Christie should sign it into law. It will help New Jersey reduce the spread of H.I.V.

Intravenous drug users who likely contracted the virus that causes AIDS from contaminated needles have accounted for more than 40 percent of the state's more than 73,000 cases of people living with H.I.V. or AIDS, according to the state health department[http://www.state.nj.us/health/aids/documents/qtr1210.pdf]. Data from around the globe have long shown that giving addicts access to clean needles can reduce the spread of infection without increasing rates of addiction.

In 2006, New Jersey became one of the last states in the country to authorize at least some access to clean needles. A 2010 state analysis of the five local needle-exchange programs that opened beginning a year later determined that they held "great promise" for slowing the transmission of blood-borne diseases of all kinds, including H.I.V./AIDS, and have been instrumental in recruiting addicts into treatment.

The pending New Jersey law, similar to one passed in New York in 2000, would allow pharmacies to sell to adults as many as 10 syringes at a time without a prescription. The pharmacies would also be required to provide these customers with instructions for safe needle disposal and information on treatment programs. The pharmacy bill is an important step, but it is still no substitute for needle-exchange programs, which need to be greatly expanded.

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