Policy & Politics
U.S., U.N. Drug Policy Heads Disagree on Needle Exchange for HIV/AIDS Prevention
March 8, 2005
Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy John Walters and Antonio Maria Costa, head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, on Monday at the 48th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, disagreed over the practice of using needle-exchange programs to curb HIV transmission among injection drug users, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/7). Costa said UNODC views needle exchanges, in which injection drug users can turn in used needles and obtain clean ones, as "appropriate as long as they are part of a comprehensive strategy to battle the overall drug problem," the Associated Press reports (Loof, Associated Press, 3/7). He said that contaminated needles are a "major source" of infection with HIV and other diseases, including hepatitis, especially among injection drug users, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. "We must not deny these addicts any genuine opportunities to remain HIV-negative," Costa said in a speech to open the CND session. He added, "We reject the false dichotomy that either drug control prevails, with no consideration for HIV, or that HIV prevention prevails with no consideration for drug abuse" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/7). However, Walters said drug use itself -- not a lack of needle exchanges or other programs for drug users, such as safe injection sites -- is "behind the danger" of HIV and other bloodborne diseases, Reuters reports. "Continued drug use is a fundamental cause of the dangers we face from bloodborne diseases," Walters said (Charbonneau, Reuters, 3/7). However, Walters added that the "points of agreement" between himself and Costa in the fight against illegal drug use "far outweighed the differences," according to AFP/Yahoo! News. "[T]he single greatest way of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS through drug users is taking those addicted and get them to recover," Walters said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/7).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.
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