Some California Needle-Exchange Programs Face Interference From State, Local Police, Report Says
September 10, 2003
Some locally approved needle-exchange programs in California are facing "routin[e]" interference from police, according to a Human Rights Watch report released yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Hymon, Los Angeles Times, 9/10). The 61-page report, "Injecting Reason: Human Rights and HIV Prevention for Injection Drug Users," is based on a two-week field visit to California in January and February 2003. HRW researchers visited seven California counties -- San Francisco, Alameda, Sacramento, Lake, Mendocino, San Diego and Los Angeles -- each of which has a "distinct approach to the regulation of syringes," according to the report. Researchers also conducted interviews with people in Santa Cruz and Marin counties. Researchers interviewed 67 injection drug users, as well as "dozens" of outreach workers, needle-exchange experts, governmental and nongovernmental experts on drug paraphernalia laws and law enforcement officials, according to the report (HRW, "Injecting Reason: Human Rights and HIV Prevention for Injection Drug Users," 9/9). HRW researchers found that some law enforcement authorities "often arrest or hassle patrons" of needle-exchange programs that have been approved by local governments under state law, the Times reports. Under current state law, needle-exchange programs are legal, but possession of drug paraphernalia -- including syringes -- and the purchase of syringes from a pharmacy without a prescription remains illegal (Los Angeles Times, 9/10). Only four states -- California, Delaware, Massachusetts and New Jersey -- require a prescription to buy needles (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/29).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.