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Lawmakers Fear Needle Exchange Will Increase Drug Use

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Man who contracted AIDS from sharing needles.
RALEIGH — Everyone knows drugs can kill, but somedon't realize the syringes used to inject drugs can also killby transmitting HIV and other diseases.

A law aimed at exchanging dirty needles for clean ones has beendefeated by lawmakers, but numbers show the epidemic is growing.

Study after study show that needle exchanges work. The programs notonly get dirty needles off the street, they often encourage drug users toget treatment.

With lawmakers refusing to pass laws for such a program, many advocateshave taken their cause underground. A man who asked to remain anonymoussaid it didn't take long for him to get hooked on drugs.

Even though he quit using drugs, he will never truly get away fromit because he contracted AIDS by sharing needles.

Stella Kirkendale is part of a group trying to make clean needleexchanges legal in North Carolina. She says injected drugs account forhalf the HIV infections.

Kirkendale says there is a great need for such a programin the Triangle as Durham County's HIV and AIDS incidence is threetimes the state average.

Meanwhile, a new AIDS study out of Chapel Hill found some promisingresults.Researchers say the drug delavirdine, in combination with othermedications, cuts the amount of virus in blood by nearly 90 percent.The virus even became undetectable in some volunteers after a year oftreatment. Doctors say the drug could be used to reduce the risk oftransmitting HIV.

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