Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti at 609-610-8243
Trenton- The Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee voted Assembly Bills 1852 and 2839 out of committee today by an 8-3 margin.
The bills would allow municipalities to establish syringe access programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other blood borne diseases and allow for the sale of limited numbers of syringes without prescriptions in pharmacies.
“We are incredibly grateful to the committee for this resounding endorsement,” said Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The thoughtful discussion by the committee members and sponsors indicates that the legislature has done its homework on this issue. This, combined with the incredible support and advocacy of so many public health and HIV service organizations, is moving New Jersey toward a new and better day in HIV/AIDS prevention.”
Growing support for life-saving sterile syringe access programs was demonstrated at the local and state level. The New Brunswick City Council last night passed Resolution 100645 supporting Assembly Bills 1852 and 2839 and Senate Bills 494 and 823 — bills that would establish of up to six municipal syringe access programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other blood borne diseases. The Camden City Council passed a similar resolution in support of sterile syringe access last month.
The New Brunswick and Camden City resolutions are part of the Campaign for a Healthier New Jersey’s Fall ’06 Initiative, a renewed advocacy effort to support sterile syringe access. The Campaign for a Healthier New Jersey Fall ’06 Initiative plans to get new resolutions in other cities that have previously passed resolutions, including Newark, Jersey City, and Atlantic City.
Present at the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee hearings were representatives from both the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health and Senior Services, which appeared before the committee in support of the life-saving legislation. Raquel Mazon Jeffers, acting director of the Division of Addiction Services, emphasized that there is extensive evidence that syringe access programs reduce the spread of HIV and that syringe access programs are unique points of contact for intravenous drug users creating the opportunity to provide services including drug treatment referrals and HIV testing. Dr. Eddy A. Bresnitz, deputy commissioner and state epidemiologist, urged the committee not to delay another moment in putting life-saving tools in the hands of communities that want to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Assemblymen Francis J. Blee, Wilfredo Caraballo, and Reed Gusciora, sponsors of A1852, also made statements to their fellow colleagues on the committee in support of sterile syringe access. Blee conveyed his disappointment that New Jersey stands alone as the only state in the nation without any access to sterile syringes. He reinforced that the legislative package New Jersey has developed has the opportunity to be the very best in the country because of its inclusive nature. Assembly Bill 1852 includes provisions that not only offer sterile syringes, but health screenings, drug treatment services, and additional social services, such as job training. Caraballo and Gusciora expressed the need to act quickly on the life-saving syringe access program to prevent more needless deaths caused by HIV/AIDS contracted through contaminated needles.
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.
New Jersey has the fifth-highest number of adult HIV cases, the third-highest 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.