Local News

Lawmakers Fear Needle Exchange Will Increase Drug Use

Posted July 7, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Everyone knows drugs can kill, but some don't realize the syringes used to inject drugs can also kill by transmitting HIV and other diseases.

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

Study after study show that needle exchanges work. The programs not only get dirty needles off the street, they often encourage drug users to get treatment.

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

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

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

Kirkendale says there is a great need for such a program in the Triangle as Durham County's HIV and AIDS incidence is three times the state average.

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