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Editorials and Commentary

We Have an AIDS Epidemic in Our Own Back Yard

October 3, 2002

"When I attended a briefing for black journalists with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York this summer... the dozen journalists gathered heard a riveting staff briefing replete with grave statistics on the increasing numbers of new [HIV/AIDS] cases spreading rapidly not only throughout the African continent, but also in Asia and Eastern Europe. ...[However] right here in the nation's capital, we have the dubious distinction of having a per-capita infection rate that's 12 times higher than any other place in the country, according to Michael Cover of the Whitman-Walker Clinic.

"...While D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton called the [recent meeting of the House subcommittee with oversight of the District] 'the smoothest of my 12 years in Congress,' she noted that the [funding] measure still contains old riders that prohibit the use of local funds for programs such as needle exchange to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"...Reportedly, the [CDC], the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, two former surgeons general and a host of other independent researchers have released studies and statements that indicate that needle exchange programs significantly decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS without increasing drug use.

"Even D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, who has been tough on illegal drug use, has been supportive of the needle exchange program.

"...We can turn a blind eye and act as if there is no correlation between intravenous drug use and HIV infection. Or we can attempt to attack the spread of this disease through various life-saving measures, such as needle exchanges, while we figure out how to provide addicts with real resources that will help them kick their habits.

"Folks need to get beyond their judgmental attitudes, learn the facts and get busy helping to arrest this disease, which is not only a worldwide pandemic, but an epidemic in their own back yards.

"One way for local individuals to help while world, national and local politicians haggle, is to join Whitman-Walker's 16th annual AIDS Walk on Oct. 5.... More information on the AIDS Walk can be found at, or by calling 202-332-WALK."

Back to other CDC news for October 3, 2002

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Adapted from:
Washington Times
09.27.02; Adrienne T. Washington

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More U.S. HIV Prevention Policy Analysis


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