Tony Newman at 212-613-8026 or Ariel Kalishman at 212-613-8036
Newark–Newark has become the third major New Jersey city to support sterile syringe access to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. The City Council of Newark unanimously passed a resolution last week supporting Assembly Bill 3645 which would allow for increased access to sterile syringes to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. Newark joined Camden and Jersey City, which passed resolutions on July 24th and September 10th.
New Jersey has the 5th adult HIV rate, the 3rd highest pediatric HIV rate, and the highest percentage of women infected with HIV in the nation. In addition, New Jersey’s rate of injection related HIV is almost twice the national average. Despite these statistics, New Jersey is almost along among states in allowing no access whatsoever to sterile syringes to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. New Jersey is one of only 5 states that require a prescription to purchase a syringe in a pharmacy, and even in states that require a prescription to purchase a syringe, there are state or municipally mandated syringe access programs.
Councilman Luis Quintana, sponsor of the resolution in Newark, said today, “Given the seriousness of the HIV / Aids problem in Newark, I feel that this is a first step in reversing an epidemic that is affecting not only us, but major cities throughout the country. I hope that other governing bodies that face the same dilemma will follow Newark’s leadership role in addressing the problem of dirty needles and the spread of HIV / Aids by allowing access to clean syringes.” said Newark Councilman Luis Quintana “Apparently, intravenous drug users are going to continue to use drugs, so the least we can do is make sure they don’t spread HIV / AIDS any further. I wish this was a non-issue but desperate situations call for drastic measures.”
Newark has been particularly hard hit by the HIV epidemic. Newark ranks among the top ten among U.S. cities with populations over 500,000 in the number of HIV/AIDS infections reported. And communities of color have been disproportionately affected–in Newark, 1 in every 33 African Americans is living with HIV/AIDS.
Roseanne Scotti, Director of the New Jersey Drug Policy Project-Drug Policy Alliance, which supports the legislation, said “The time to act is now. The support for syringe access in New Jersey has reached an all time high. This legislation would save thousands of lives and millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs.”
Syringe access and its relationship to HIV has been the subject of numerous federal, state and university studies–all of which conclude that allowing adults to acquire and possess syringes from pharmacies or needle exchange programs reduces the rate of HIV and other diseases, without contributing to any increase in drug use or crime.
Proponents suggest that preventing even a fraction of HIV or hepatitis C infections would save New Jersey millions of dollars in future healthcare costs, generally borne by taxpayer-supported health programs.
When the New Jersey Legislature reconvenes on November 13th supporters of syringe access who have rallied behind Assembly Bill 3645 are hopeful that the legislature will consider the bill. Supporters have formed a coalition, the Campaign for a Healthier New Jersey, to support the legislation. Supporters include the Medical Society of New Jersey, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, and various pharmacy groups.
Asked about the chances for passage of legislation, Scotti responded, “We believe the Legislature the Governor will do the right thing and pass this critical legislation in the current session. There is nothing that the leaders of New Jersey could do that would do more to protect the health and safety of the families and communities of New Jersey.”