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Lawmakers Look at Needle Exchange

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RALEIGH — Medical experts say that intravenous drugusers account for half of all new AIDS cases in the U.S. Some NorthCarolina lawmakers are hoping to reduce that staggering statistic in thisstate by proposing legislation that would put clean needles on the street.

The Triangle's AIDS Service Agency sponsored a vigil held at thelegislative building Monday night in Raleigh. They say are hoping togalvanize some support for the two bills being introduced.

Rick Harward of Hillsborough is living with AIDS at the OrangeCounty Group Home for AIDS Victims in Carrboro.

Harward is conducting hisown personal crusade for the clean needles cause. He told WRAL-TV5'sKelly Wrightthat he is a former I.V.drug user and that dirty needles threaten more people than you mightthink.

Harward became HIV positive in 1987. He says when an addict wants adrug, he or she won't be thinking about disease from a dirty needle.

He says a needle exchange program could eliminate some very deadlypractices. In such a program, used needles are turned in and placed into abio-hazard container where they can't be retrieved. A new, clean needle isgiven to the drug user.

Harward says that, in addition to the obvious benefits, such a programwould save taxpayers millions in medical bills that are currently paid bythe state. His prescription bill alone, he says, costs $100 per day.

There is opposition to the bills. A spokesperson for the Republicanparty told Wright that, while they are concerned about the spread of thedisease, they want to make sure the state is not viewed as facilitatingdrug abuse.

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