Texas Senate Committee Approves Bill to Protect Needle-Exchange Programs
March 4, 2009
The Texas Senate's Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday voted 5-1 to approve a bill (S.B. 188) that would protect needle-exchange programs run by local health departments, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. Under the legislation, district attorneys would be prohibited from prosecuting state-approved health programs that allow for needle exchanges. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 100 new HIV cases could be prevented in the first year of a needle-exchange program. Texas is the only state that does not permit needle exchanges of any kind (Stone, AP/Houston Chronicle, 3/3). In 2007, the Texas Legislature authorized Bexar County to establish a pilot needle-exchange program. State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (D) said lawmakers hoped to use the pilot program to consider passing a statewide program during the 2009 legislative session. However, District Attorney Susan Reed in August 2007 challenged the legislation, saying that anyone in possession of drug paraphernalia would be breaking the law, regardless of their intentions. State Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) last year backed Reed, saying people who possess drug paraphernalia could be prosecuted because the law does not specifically exempt them. Abbott's opinion meant that Bexar County officials did not move forward with the planned needle-exchange program, which would have been the first in Texas (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/11/08).
San Antonio Conference Debates Benefits of Needle-Exchange Programs for Preventing HIV Among Injection Drug Users
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.