Our initial attempt to outlaw heroin with the Harrison NarcoticAct of 1914 resulted in the U. S. having the worst heroin problem in the world (Tooley540). Although the legislative actions regarding heroin hitherto producedominous results that rarely affected any individuals other than the addict andhis or her family, the late twentieth century brings rise to the ever-infringingAIDS epidemic in conjunction with heroin abuse. The distribution of cleanneedles to intravenous (IV) drug users is being encouraged in an attempt toprevent the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from sharing"contaminated needles" (Glantz 1077). It is the contention of thispaper to advocate the establishment and support of needle exchange programs forintravenous drug users because such programs reduce the spread of HIV and do notcause an increase of drug use.
This can be justified simply by examining thetowering evidence that undoubtedly supports needle exchange programs and theeffectiveness of their main objective to prevent the spread of the HIV. Countries around the world have come to realize that prohibiting theavailability of clean needles will not prevent IV drug use; it will only preventsafe IV drug use (Glantz 1078). Understanding that IV drug use is an inescapableaspect of almost every modern society, Europeans have been taking advantage ofneedle exchange programs in Amsterdam since the early 1980’s (Fuller 9). Established in 1988, Spain’s first needle exchange program has since been joinedby 59 additional programs to advocate the use of clean injection equipment (Menoyo410) in an attempt to slow the spread of HIV. Several needle exchange programssponsored by religious organizations in Australia have "reported no new HIVinfections resulting from needle sharing over the past three years" (Fuller9). Public safety groups in the United States are rapidly beginning to acceptthe effectiveness of needle exchange programs.
The 113 needle exchange programsthat are currently operating throughout the United States (Bowdy 26) are aresult of this acceptance. These programs for the most part are established tosupport "needle exchange" more so than "needle distribution"(Fuller 10). Many needle exchange programs have been initiated by recoveringaddicts who understand "the realities of addiction and the potential harmof needle sharing" (Fuller 9). Perhaps addicts feel more comfortable takingadvice from some one whom has been there and knows what they are going through.
Social interaction between the addict and program is quite simple. Programclients are asked to donate their old injection equipment in exchange for newmaterials and identification cards issued by some programs, allowing the usersto carry their injection equipment anywhere (Loconte 20), reducing the need toshare needles. Volunteers keep track of old needles collected and sterile onesgiven out with "a coding system that allows participants to remainanonymous" (Green 15). Unlike some of their European counterparts, needleexchange programs in the U.
S. do not advocate the use of vending machines todispense hypodermic needles (Fuller 10). American programs understand the graveimportance of regular contact between the addict and caring members of societywho inform addicts about various avenues of health care and recovery during eachvisit (Fuller 10). The assistant director of the Adult Clinical AIDS Program atBoston Medical Center, Jon Fuller, feels that this intimate approach by Americanprograms conveys "a powerful message to addicts that their lives andwell-being are still valued by the community" despite their inability to"break the cycle of addictive behavior" (10). Addicts who can not stayclean or get admitted into a drug treatment program should be encouraged to takethe necessary precautions to perform safe injections and not put others at riskas a result of their habit (Glantz 1078). From 1981 to 1997, drug related HIVcases in the United States rose from 1 to 31 percent not including infants andsexual partners infected by the user (Fuller 9).
With contaminated needlesinfecting 33 Americans with HIV daily (Fuller 11), it was only a matter of timebefore an in-depth analysis of the drug related AIDS epidemic was made. Morecomprehensive research in regards to the effectiveness of needle exchangeprograms is necessary to provide the basis for making proper legislativedecisions. The ban currently preventing federal funds from being allocated tosupport needle exchange programs in the U. S. greatly curtails the meansnecessary to establish and operate an effective needle exchange program.President Clinton initially planned .