NEEDLE EXCHANGE CONTINUES DESPITE ACRIMONY:

County Supervisor Joni Gray, representing the conservative 5th
District, was the lone vote against reauthorizing a needle-exchange
program intended to keep blood-borne diseases from spreading among
drug users, their sexual partners, and their babies. “I just can’t
stomach it,” said Gray, referring to the prospect of appearing to
condone the intravenous use of heroin and methamphetamine. “It’s
just sickening, absolutely sickening,” she continued, “and I don’t
want to be a part of this.” Gray acknowledged rubber-stamping the
program every two weeks, as required by the emergency declaration
that enables the Pacific Pride Foundation Needle Exchange Program
to operate in the county, but Tuesday’s vote came on the occasion
of an annual hearing. Representatives from the PPF program said the
exchange is an opportunity to provide counseling and treatment
referrals, and they estimated that 168,000 contaminated needles
have been kept off the street this year. They added that every AIDS
case prevented by the program saves the county $250,000. Fourth
District Supervisor Joseph Centeno said he will join Gray in voting
against the program next year unless the foundation generates more
data proving its effectiveness.

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