Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy makes 'The Conservative Case for Needle Exchange'

William Martin, Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, has once again delivered a stunning commentary on why needle exchange in Texas and why now more than ever. The article in today's Texas Tribune, "The Conservative Case for Needle Exchange," reminds Texans that needle exchange programs are an essential component in addressing addiction, helping people seek treatment for their addiction, and saving the state piles of money while decreasing the burden of disease.

In 2007 and 2009, Senator Bob Deuell championed syringe exchange in the Texas Senate. Martin recalls Deuell's support for syringe exchange as grounded in not only science, but also in compassion and Christianity.

'Sen. Bob Deuell, a conservative Republican and a practicing doctor, sponsored similar bills in both 2007 and 2009. "At one time," he recalled, "I was opposed, but I looked at the data. When people have disagreed with my vote, I've shown them the data and asked them, 'How could I argue with that?'" A fiscal conservative, Deuell also noted that syringe exchange makes good economic sense: "It costs us a fortune to treat HIV and hepatitis C. It's breaking the budget."

Deuell's support of needle exchange does not rest on science and economics alone. "I look at it from the Christian viewpoint," he said. "What would Jesus do? We need to show compassion and try to help. [Addicts] are God's children, too. When they need new needles, this puts them in touch with someone who might reach them. The very act of handing them clean needles says, 'Your life has value to me. I want you to know that we care about you. When you want to get off, we're here to help you.' If they're in a back alley, using a dirty needle, there's no chance of that."'

States that offer syringe exchange programs have significantly reduced the incidence of HIV among injection drug users.

'A Johns Hopkins study of the Baltimore City Needle Exchange found that, after six years in operation, the incidence of HIV in Baltimore decreased by 35 percent overall and 70 percent among the approximately 10,000 participants in the program. Even more striking, epidemiologist Don Des Jarlais, director of research at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center and a leading expert on syringe exchange, reports that the incidence of new HIV infections among injecting drug users in New York City has dropped to less than 1 percent per year. "We appear," he said, "to be very close to eliminating injecting-related transmission in a city with over 100,000 injecting drug users." '

Thank you Mr. Martin for presenting the facts and reminding us that syringe exchange as disease prevention has had strong support, from Republicans, Democrats and Christians alike, here in Texas.

Read full article.

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