Elders Calls for Needle Exchange Ban to Be Lifted, Accepts Award at Ninth Annual Drug Policy Foundation Conference
Speaking at an awards luncheon at the Ninth Annual Drug Policy Foundation Conference, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders called on the Clinton administration to lift the ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs to curb the spread of HIV.
Elders helped release a new study showing that AIDS is spreading more rapidly among drug-using African Americans and Latinos than whites. AIDS is the number-one killer of African-American men ages 22 to 44, she said, asking Clinton and members of Congress "to end the silence on this issue."
Referring to a number of other recent reports showing that needle exchange helps slow the spread of AIDS and does not increase drug use, she said there is no reason to continue the ban. "I feel we must ask the president to follow the recommendations of our scientists and stop politicizing this disease," she said. "[Needle exchange] has been reviewed to death."
Elders received an award for outstanding achievement in the field of drug policy reform. Other awardees were Catherine Crier of ABC News, criminal defense lawyer Patrick Hallinan, drug use researcher Dr. Dan Waldorf, medical marijuana activist Dennis Peron, harm reduction educator Edith Springer, Rob Hessing, the Chief of Police of Rotterdam, and Dr. Ernest Drucker, who has worked on the medical and treatment needs of drug abusers.
The three-day conference, held October 18-21 at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, focused on harm reduction policies around the world. Various panels addressed heroin maintenance, needle exchange, methadone treatment, drug prevention programs, public opinion, coalition-building and outreach, and policies regulating psychedelic drugs, marijuana, and coca.
[For a conference program and information about ordering audio tapes of the plenary sessions and workshops, or for advance information about next year's conference, contact the Drug Policy Foundation at 4455 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008-2302, 202-537-5005.]