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Massachusetts: Worcester HIV Rate "Alarmingly High"

July 23, 2002

A city managerial task force on AIDS and hepatitis C has found the rate of HIV infection and hepatitis C in Worcester, Mass., alarmingly high. Worcester has the second-highest AIDS rate in Massachusetts, twice the state average. Holyoke leads the category with three times the state average.

According to the interim report, the majority of people at risk for HIV are intravenous drug users and their sexual partners. The task force believes a clean needle exchange program -- which city officials have been loath to adopt -- would make a dent in infection rates. "Education and prevention services should, ideally, be placed in combination with an access to clean syringes program. The rate of transmission of infection among IDUs through shared needle use could be reduced by clean needle exchange programs based in pharmacies, doctors' offices, and/or community health settings. The rate of transmission could also be reduced by changes in the law pertaining to possession of needles and/or syringes," the report said. Other findings include:

The task force said the city could play a leading role in enacting these reforms. The HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C Task Force is headed by AIDS researcher Dr. John Sullivan of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

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Excerpted from:
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
07.18.02; Richard Nangle

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