The Coastal Post - April, 1999

Legislation Would Protect Needed Needle Exchange Programs

AB 518, introduced by Assembly Members Kerry Mazzoni (D-Marin) and Kevin Shelly (D-SF), would amend California state law that prohibits distribution of syringes without a prescription in order to provide legal protection to needle exchange projects operating within certain parameters outlined in the bill. Under AB 518, needle exchange programs would be established only in jurisdictions that choose to enact them and would be designed and implemented with input from the communities in which they are established.

California is home to over a dozen needle exchange projects, including the nation's largest exchange, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation HIV Prevention Project (HPP). Numerous scientific studies, as well as U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala have certified that needle exchange reduces HIV transmission and does not encourage drug use. Such programs allow injection drug users (IDUs) to exchange used syringes for new ones in order to reduce the rate of infection from HIV and other blood-born pathogens, such as Hepatitis B and C, that can result from sharing needles. Reducing the number of infections among IDUs also helps to prevent infection among their sexual partners and children.

Please write a letter of support for AB 518 and fax it to Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni at 916/319-2106 and to the Health Committee at 916/319-2197. Fax a copy of your letter of support to SFAF at 415/487-3089.

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