Needle exchange positive step

Experts are saying that in a few short years, everyone in this country will know someone who either has AIDS or has died from the disease.

To counter the growing number of AIDS cases, New York City Health Commissioner Stephen Joseph pushed for a hypodermic needle exchange program for intravenous drug users—heroin addicts. He convinced New York Mayor Ed Koch and state health officials that such a program would help curtail the spread of AIDS among New York’s heroin addicts, which are estimated to number more than 200,000, the largest population of addicts in the country.

The needles are not handed out indiscriminately, though. To be eligible for the program, addicts must be on a waiting list for treatment, and they must turn in used needles to get new ones. The needles which are turned in are then tested for blood types to determine if the needles are being shared.

As with almost every program and action plan designed to counter the spread of AIDS, this program has come under heavy fire. Critics charge that such a program encourages drug abuse.

Because of the ways this disease is most often transmitted—through sexual intercourse and intravenous drug use—methods of prevention such as condom distribution and needle exchange programs will always be under attack from narrow-minded people who fail to realize the serious threat AIDS poses.

Until a cure is found, this nation as a community must do everything possible to stop the spread of the disease.

It’s time to stop talking and start taking action. This needle exchange is a positive step.