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U.S. News

California: San Francisco Law Lets Drug Users Purchase Syringes

February 23, 2005

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance to allow injection drug users to buy needles without a prescription at Walgreens and Rite Aid pharmacies in the city. The measure invokes the city's power under a new state law that took effect Jan. 1: It lets cities authorize non-prescription needle sales at pharmacies that register with the local health department. The stores can sell up to 10 syringes at a time to anyone 18 or older; customers do not have to give their names; the stores must provide written or oral information about testing and treatment for HIV and hepatitis C.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who sponsored the ordinance with Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Ross Mirkarimi, noted that while the city already sponsors needle exchanges, those programs are not available in every area. "Safe access to needles has been essential to preventing the spread of HIV," Dufty said.

Dr. Mitch Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, is a supporter of the ordinance. He noted that one study showed injection drug users who were diabetic were less likely to become HIV-infected than users who are not diabetic. "The reason is they have access to needles," Katz said.

Two hearings on the ordinance are required before the Board of Supervisors. After next week's meeting, the measure goes to Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it. Thirty days later, the law would go into effect.

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In Contra Costa County, which has also joined the program, needles are already available at five Walgreens stores, said Christine Leivermann, AIDS director for the county.

Back to other news for February 23, 2005

Adapted from:
San Francisco Chronicle
02.23.05; Suzanne Herel



  
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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.
 

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