Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti at (609) 610-8243
Trenton–The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will hold hearings on Monday September 18th at 10 AM on Senate Bills 494 and 823. The bills would allow for the establishment of municipal syringe exchange programs and non-prescription pharmacy sale of up to ten syringes. The bills, which passed the New Jersey General Assembly in 2004 have stalled in the senate twice before.
Public health, medical and HIV prevention advocates expressed joy at the announcement of the hearings. “We believe that the time has come when New Jersey will finally do the right thing on sterile syringe access,” said Roseanne Scotti, Director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. “New Jersey has been fighting the battle against AIDS with one hand tied behind its back. We need to use all the tools at our disposal to fight AIDS–these bills will give us those tools.”
Supporters of sterile syringe access include the Medical Society of New Jersey, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children, the National Association of Social Workers-New Jersey Chapter, the Garden State Pharmacy Owners, the New Jersey Council of Chain Drug Stores, the New Jersey Pharmacists Association, the Independent Pharmacy Alliance, the Licensed Practical Nurse Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Women and AIDS Network, the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, and the Dogwood Center.
Two months ago, Delaware passed syringe access legislation, making New Jersey the last state in the nation with no access whatsoever to sterile syringes to prevent the spread of diseases. New Jersey has the 5th highest number of adult HIV cases, the 3rd high number of pediatric HIV cases and the highest proportion of HIV infections among women in the nation. Most striking, the state’s rate of HIV infection related to the sharing of contaminated syringes is twice the national average.
Jose Quann, who runs the neighborhood health van for the Camden Area Health Education Center (AHEC) said that the legislation was needed to prevent HIV/AIDS in the most at-risk communities in New Jersey. “Now that the Senate health committee is going to review all the information on how sterile syringe access can reduce the risks of HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases, perhaps we will no longer have the embarrassing distinction of being the only state with absolutely no access to sterile syringes,” said Quann. “The staff at Camden AHEC is excited that the state legislature will do the right thing and pass this bill so that we can save lives through one of the most proven methods of prevention for injecting drug users.” The Camden Area Health Education Center is the organization that Camden City officials want to provide sterile syringe access services in Camden.