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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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