New Jersey 2004 Update below
(Whitman gone...but still no Exhange)
Activists Claim New Jersey in Crisis State
by Kalita, S. Mitra
Some 250 protesters gathered in front of the New Jersey Statehouse on Tuesday to demonstrate against Gov. Christine Whitman's needle-exchange policy. The activists argued that New Jersey, which has a high rate of HIV infection due to intravenous drug use, needs a needle-exchange program to prevent further infections with HIV. Statistics show that almost 37,000 people in the state have AIDS, with more than half of HIV infections due to drug injection, according to the state Health Department. In response, Whitman restated her opposition to the programs, asserting that "needle exchange programs represent a government blessing of illicit and dangerous drug use, plain and simple."
January 13, 1999 _Boston Globe Online
WHITMAN USES RIGHT-WING STUDY TO COMBAT NEEDLE EXCHANGE
Despite solid scientific evidence that syringe exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV and do not encourage drug use, New Jersey's Gov. Christine Todd Whitman points to a study by the right-wing Heritage Foundation as her evidence against syringe exchanges, according to an article in the New York Times. While the nation's most prestigious health and medical institutions have endorsed needle exchange programs, Whitman claims these studies are "dubious, at best."
"Whitman's opposition to syringe exchange is fueling an HIV epidemic in New Jersey," said Ethan Nadelmann, JD, Ph.D., drug policy expert and director of the Lindesmith Center, which has reported that the lack of needle exchange in the state has led to thousands of new infections. "New Jersey now has the nation's highest rate of HIV infection among women and children. She is simply playing politics with people's lives."
As Whitman nears the end of her term in 2001, Diana McCague, a syringe exchange activist, told the Times, "It's unfortunate that the government's own statistics show that four people will be infected by injection-related HIV every day between now and then. That's 4,400 people between now and the end of her term."
In 1998, Whitman's appointed Attorney General, Peter G. Verniero, released a study that was critical of needle exchange programs. Whitman frequently refers to this study when defending her opposition to syringe exchange. However, the Times reports that one of the sources for the study was the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which also advocated conversion to Christianity as a cure for drug addiction.
Numerous scientific studies have concluded
that needle exchange programs dramatically reduce the spread of
HIV and do not encourage drug use. Needle exchange programs are
supported by the American Medical Association, the National Academy
of Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the
American Public Health Association, the American Bar Association
and the U.S. Conference of Mayors as well as other prestigious
medical, professional and public health organizations.
AIDS Activists Rally in Trenton for Needle
by Caren Chesler
TRENTON, NJ -- Some 200 AIDS activists marched on the steps of the Statehouse yesterday to protest Gov. Christie Whitman's refusal to adopt a needle-exchange program for drug users.
Holding a Grim Reaper with Whitman's face on it and carrying four coffins -- to represent the people who die statewide of AIDS contracted from dirty needles -- the group called for syringe-exchange programs. The exchanges allow users to swap dirty needles for clean ones in an effort to stop the spread of HIV, which causes AIDS.
"Christie Whitman, you can't hide. We charge you with genocide," the group chanted during the demonstration, just a block away and an hour before Whitman was to give her State of the State address.
As of September 1998, 37,163 people in New Jersey were diagnosed with AIDS, while another 13,761 tested positive for HIV, according to the state Health and Senior Services Department. To date, 23,519 people in New Jersey have died of AIDS.
According to the protesters, there are 46,000 drug injectors in New Jersey in 1997 who do not have HIV, but they could contract it if a legal syringe program is not implemented.
Though the Governor's Advisory Council on AIDS supports needle-exchange programs, Whitman opposes them because they are ineffective, according to her spokesman, Peter McDonough. Once a clean syringe is distributed, there is no way of stopping the user from sharing it with someone else, he said.
If the program is to be monitored, the state must provide a place to shoot up, and Whitman does not want to encourage illegal drug use, McDonough said. Without monitoring, distributing needles only puts more of them into the population, McDonough said.
"The state should not be an enabler here," he said, adding, "She's firm in her opposition."
Activists acknowledge that people cannot be monitored, but they say data show needle-exchange programs work.
Earl Driscoll, a 41-year old former addict, said the only reason he is not HIV positive is because his home city of Philadelphia adopted a needle-exchange program seven years ago.
"In the grips of an addiction, you do what you need to do to feel good. I wouldn't have stopped shooting drugs, even if there were no clean syringes," Driscoll said.
But with an exchange program, he showed up, turned in his old syringes for new ones and entered a treatment program when he was ready, he said.
"A dead addict can't recover," Driscoll said.
Activists say they are tired of hearing about politicians not wanting to send the wrong message.
"While our elected officials worry about their own political viability and expound, ad nauseam, about sending a bad message to children, they send their own very harmful message" of neglect, racism and hate, said Diana McCague, director of the Chia Project, which ran a needle-exchange program in New Brunswick.
McCague was arrested for distributing clean needles, but received a suspended jail sentence and community service.
There are two syringe-related bills in the Senate: one would allow needle-exchange programs, and the other would deregulate the sale and possession of syringes. Both have made it through the Senate Health Committee.
But they face resistance. In previous years, similar bills did not make it out of committee.
"If this were a wealthy, elitist white issue and a virus that affected only them, you would have people tripping over each other trying to help them," said Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex.
Vitale says he knows the governor will never sign the bills, but he is trying to get a consensus in the Legislature.
Home News Tribune, January 13, 1999
Letters should be directed to Barbara Frankel. Their editorial policy on this has been great and they will definitely print your letters.
Please send copies to NJHRC, P.O. Box 1459, New Brunswick, NJ 08903
Home News Tribune
35 Kennedy Blvd.
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Barbara Frankel, director of editorial pages 732-246-5500, ext. 7310
Other newspapers in N.J. that folks should be writing to:
500 Perry Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
150 River Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
1 Star Ledger Plaza
Newark, NJ 07102-1200
Asbury Park Press
3601 Highway 66
P.O. Box 1550
Neptune, NJ 07754-1550
The Press of Atlantic City
1000 West Washington Avenue
Pleasantville, NJ 08232
2004 Update (no Gov. Whitman -- but still no exchanges in NJ)
'Restrictive' N.J. Laws on Needle Distribution, Exchange Result in More HIV, Hepatitis C Cases, Opinion Piece Says
[Aug 26, 2004]
New Jersey's "overly restrictive" laws on needle distribution and exchange are "outdated" and are "proving detrimental to the state's interests" because they result in more cases of HIV and hepatitis C, New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Roberts (D) writes in a Philadelphia Inquirer opinion piece (Roberts, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/25). Sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs is the leading cause of both HIV and hepatitis C infections in New Jersey. Although injection drug use has become the primary source of new HIV/AIDS cases in the state, New Jersey is one of only a few remaining states that requires a prescription to purchase needles (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/13). New Jersey's legal restrictions have cost the state "in terms of more money, more illness and more lives," Roberts says. New Jersey has spent "millions" of dollars in taxpayer money to provide care for uninsured residents who are infected with viruses through injection drug use, Roberts says, adding that used syringes have been "found in schoolyards and playgrounds in all regions of the state," and such needles "pose an environmental threat." Studies show that the number of infectious disease cases in New Jersey would "drop precipitously if it did a better job of making syringes available and collecting them after they are used," Roberts says. In addition, experiences in other states that have legalized syringe sales or allowed needle-exchange programs "further underscore how New Jersey could benefit from a more tolerant approach to syringe access," according to Roberts, who concludes that the state Legislature should "enact a syringe-control law that promotes better public health while ridding the state of the dirty-needle threat" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/25).
in memory of Rod Sorge...
among the FIRST 1990 syringe exchange activists ARRESTED and taken thru the judical SYSTEM
in New Jersey to challange and CHANGE the laws...
charges were DISMISSED by the Court one year later
in the interest of"Service for the Public Good"