Local News

Lawmakers Look at Needle Exchange

Posted April 21, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Medical experts say that intravenous drug users account for half of all new AIDS cases in the U.S. Some North Carolina lawmakers are hoping to reduce that staggering statistic in this state by proposing legislation that would put clean needles on the street.

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

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

Harward is conducting his own 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 might think.

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

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

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

There is opposition to the bills. A spokesperson for the Republican party told Wright that, while they are concerned about the spread of the disease, they want to make sure the state is not viewed as facilitating drug abuse.