A Needle Exchange Controversy Essay Research Paper

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A. Needle Exchange Controversy Essay, Research Paper Needle Exchange Programs: The Best Solution? robert_hamilton37@email.com The United States of America has been contending with adverse social and economic effects of the drug abuse, namely of heroin, since the foundation of this country. Our initial attempt to outlaw heroin with the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 resulted in the U.S. having the worst heroin problem in the world (Tooley 540). Although the legislative actions regarding heroin hitherto produced ominous results that rarely affected any individuals other than the addict and his or her family, the late twentieth century brings rise to the ever-infringing AIDS epidemic in conjunction with heroin abuse. The distribution of clean needles to intravenous (IV) drug

users is being encouraged in an attempt to prevent the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from sharing “contaminated needles” (Glantz 1077). It is the contention of this paper to advocate the establishment and support of needle exchange programs for intravenous drug users because such programs reduce the spread of HIV and do not cause an increase of drug use. This can be justified simply by examining the towering evidence that undoubtedly supports needle exchange programs and the effectiveness of their main objective to prevent the spread of the HIV. Countries around the world have come to realize that prohibiting the availability of clean needles will not prevent IV drug use; it will only prevent safe IV drug use (Glantz 1078). Understanding that IV drug use

is an inescapable aspect of almost every modern society, Europeans have been taking advantage of needle exchange programs in Amsterdam since the early 1980’s (Fuller 9). Established in 1988, Spain’s first needle exchange program has since been joined by 59 additional programs to advocate the use of clean injection equipment (Menoyo 410) in an attempt to slow the spread of HIV. Several needle exchange programs sponsored by religious organizations in Australia have “reported no new HIV infections resulting from needle sharing over the past three years” (Fuller 9). Public safety groups in the United States are rapidly beginning to accept the effectiveness of needle exchange programs. The 113 needle exchange programs that are currently operating throughout the United States

(Bowdy 26) are a result of this acceptance. These programs for the most part are established to support “needle exchange” more so than “needle distribution” (Fuller 10). Many needle exchange programs have been initiated by recovering addicts who understand “the realities of addiction and the potential harm of needle sharing” (Fuller 9). Perhaps addicts feel more comfortable taking advice from some one whom has been there and knows what they are going through. Social interaction between the addict and program is quite simple. Program clients are asked to donate their old injection equipment in exchange for new materials and identification cards issued by some programs, allowing the users to carry their injection equipment anywhere (Loconte 20), reducing the need to

share needles. Volunteers keep track of old needles collected and sterile ones given out with “a coding system that allows participants to remain anonymous” (Green 15). Unlike some of their European counterparts, needle exchange programs in the U.S. do not advocate the use of vending machines to dispense hypodermic needles (Fuller 10). American programs understand the grave importance of regular contact between the addict and caring members of society who inform addicts about various avenues of health care and recovery during each visit (Fuller 10). The assistant director of the Adult Clinical AIDS Program at Boston Medical Center, Jon Fuller, feels that this intimate approach by American programs conveys “a powerful message to addicts that their lives and well-being are