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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW YORK: Community Heads Off Planned Needle-Exchange Program
Patrick Whittle
May 30, 2012
Newsday (Melville) (05.29.12) - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Although a nonprofit serving HIV-positive Long Islanders identified Freeport's need for a needle-exchange program (NEP), community opposition will keep the group out of the village.

The Lindenhurst-based Long Island Minority AIDS Coalition (LIMAC) deliberated placing a van at the intersection of North Main Street and Brooklyn Avenue for drug injectors to exchange used needles for clean ones.

LIMAC Exchange Director Tina Wolf maintains the coalition targeted Freeport as an area where it could "have the most impact." She said NEPs help halt HIV transmission by disposing of used needles, and that LIMAC refers users to treatment programs and other services. The New York health department's Community Need Index lists Freeport's ZIP code as one of Nassau County's most needy, considering factors including AIDS cases, drug use, and teen pregnancy statistics.

However, residents learned of the plan and complained to LIMAC and village officials that the van would draw crime to the area. "Drug dealers are going to come because they've got their customers and they've got their needles," said resident Pat Rowen. Other residents, like Anthony Miller, saw the benefit of the program, but agreed the matter should have come "before the board [of trustees] first." Village officials insisted they had not been sufficiently consulted about LIMAC's planned Freeport presence, and they questioned the coalition's right to station a van in a high- traffic area without a permit. Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick noted the coalition never approached him regarding such a permit, which he considered "a blatant sign of disrespect." Even though Wolf said local approval is not always necessary to set up van programs, LIMAC Executive Director Rabia Aziz said the coalition "will not go into any community that is not supportive of the service, nor should we."