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Commentary & Opinion
Needle-Exchange Programs Should Be Available in Texas to Curb Spread of HIV, Opinion Piece Says

April 8, 2009

"The Texas Legislature is currently considering bills that would allow the establishment of programs to enable" injection drug users to "exchange used syringes for sterile ones, as a proven means of reducing the spread of bloodborne diseases," William Martin, senior fellow in religion and public policy at the James A. Baker III Institute at Rice University, writes in a Houston Chronicle opinion piece. According to Martin, Texas is the only state in the U.S. that "still prohibits the purchase or possession of syringes for [the] purpose of injecting illegal drugs." He adds, "As the state with the fourth-highest HIV/AIDS rate in the nation, this is not a lone star of which we can be proud."

Martin writes, "Supported by repeated scientific research, American medical and public health personnel overwhelmingly support making sterile syringes available to" IDUs. He adds, "Despite the evidence, many politicians, often reflecting the sentiments of their constituents, oppose the establishment or public funding of needle-exchange programs. Conservative Christians have been among the most resistant to these programs." Martin writes, "Though some sincerely question the scientific evidence supporting various forms of needle exchange, the major opposing argument continues to be, 'It sends the wrong message.'" Martin asks, "How can we justify saying it is permissible, even laudable, to help people after they have contracted HIV/AIDS but wrong to approve of measures that significantly reduce their chances of contracting the disease?" He concludes that exchange programs "save money, demonstrate compassion, preserve lives and offer a helping hand to people in desperate need. These are criteria for public policy that thoughtful religious people can support with a clear conscience" (Martin, Houston Chronicle, 4/5).

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