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News & Notes

June 2000

Needle Sale Legislation Passes in New York

New York State law will now allow the sale or possession of a hypodermic syringe without a prescription. The legislation passed both houses of the state legislature in early May and is scheduled to be signed by Governor George Pataki as part of the state budget.

Under the new legislation, which takes effect on January 1, any pharmacy, hospital, or health center that registers with the State Health Department will be able to sell up to ten needles to a person over 18 without a prescription. The Insurance Department will make sure that health insurance plans that cover prescription needles (e.g., for diabetics) will continue to pay for them.

According to Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried, who has sponsored this legislation for many years, "In New York State today, more than 50 percent of all AIDS cases are caused by the sharing of HIV-contaminated syringes or having sex with someone infected by needle sharing. Nearly 80 percent of HIV-infected newborns have a parent who was infected that way. Nearly 80 percent of females with AIDS in New York were also infected that way." He went on to say that the new legislation "will significantly reduce future healthcare and other costs relating to HIV. And most important, it will save tens of thousands of lives."

Drug users commonly share needles to inject drugs. If one of them is infected with HIV, small amounts of blood with the virus can be passed on to the others. A drug user infected through needle sharing can then infect a sex partner or transmit the infection to her fetus.

Current New York State law requires a prescription for sale or possession of a hypodermic, so they are generally available to drug abusers only in a high-priced black market.

The nonprescription needle legislation had been endorsed by a long list of HIV and drug-treatment advocacy groups, as well as by the Medical Society of the State of New York. More than forty states now allow nonprescription sale and possession of needles.

Community HIV Testing and Care Initiative Launched in Harlem

"Test, Link, Care -- A Community Partnership" is the name of a new street outreach program launched by the Harlem Directors Group, along with six social service and AIDS service community groups, at a community luncheon in Harlem on April 27. The pilot program, which will be implemented in two neighborhoods in Central and East Harlem, targets individuals who do not know their HIV status and attempts to get those who are HIV-positive into treatment and care. It seeks to allow outreach workers the opportunity to establish one-on-one relationships with people and to deal with each person's specific health needs. This "testing-to-treatment" strategy starts on the street and will eventually connect an individual to the most appropriate services needed, including medical care.

"Our goal is to guide people from HIV testing, to knowing their results, and finally to access treatment if tested positive," said Ravinia Hayes-Cozier, Executive Director of HDG and program spokesperson. "This program will be efficient because our initial focus is on two specific neighborhoods in Harlem. The best way to support people in getting tested and follow-up for HIV/AIDS is to have as narrow a focus as possible and to provide consistent messages that will be delivered by community members. Once we complete this pilot initiative, we hope this model can be replicated in other neighborhoods as well."

The program is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb Immunology. For information about Test, Link, Care, call HDG at (212) 531-0049.

TAG Finds Need for New Funding Priorities in Vaccine Research

New priorities in research funding are needed if an effective AIDS vaccine is to be discovered in the near future, according to a report by Treatment Action Group, a national HIV/AIDS research advocacy organization. As of now, said Gregg Gonsalves, the report's author and TAG's Policy Director, the AIDS vaccines furthest along in development cannot induce strong, broad-based, and long-lasting immune responses in humans.

The TAG report identifies multiple scientific and practical obstacles to developing an effective AIDS vaccine:

  • The lack of understanding about how to induce strong, broad-based, long-lasting immune responses, particularly at the mucosal surfaces of the genital tract.
  • The short supply of monkeys for research, due to the mismanagement of the animal program by the National Center for Research Responses.
  • The difficulty in quickly bringing new vaccine concepts out of the laboratory and into clinical testing.

To overcome these obstacles and expedite development of promising agents, the report recommends an increase in the overall investment in vaccine research; intensified investment in human immunology research; creation of an expanded, more cohesive animal-based research program; and maintenance of a strong, scientifically rigorous domestic and international research program.

"The first two decades of AIDS vaccine research have been a series of disappointments and setbacks," said Gonsalves. "By adopting the recommendations in this report, we believe the NIH could seriously accelerate the discovery of a safe and effective vaccine."

The full text of the report is available online at, or send a request to TAG, 350 Seventh Avenue, Suite 1603, New York, NY 10001.

Back to the June 2000 issue of Body Positive magazine.

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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.