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San Francisco Defies State, Backs Needle Exchange Program


April 1993

San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan ordered city health officials to begin a needle-exchange program to combat the alarming increase in AIDS, defying state law prohibiting sale and distribution of syringes without a prescription (No Author, "S.F. Defies State In War On AIDS: Mayor Orders Health Officials To Begin Needle-Swap Program," San Jose Mercury News, 3/16/93, 1A; Sabin Russell, "S.F. To Challenge State, Start Needle Exchange," San Francisco Chronicle, 3/13/93, A1).

Jordan's action fulfilled a controversial campaign promise. The city will provide funding to Prevention Point, a one-time civilly disobedient organization that has been running a city-wide needle exchange program since 1988 in a joint project with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Without the funding, the program would have ceased operating, Jordan said. The program exchanges about 15,000 to 20,000 needles weekly at six sites around the city.

San Francisco recently passed the 10,000 mark for AIDS deaths, with officials estimating that about 16 percent of the city's 16,000 intravenous drug users are infected with HIV. About 2,000 of the city's current 15,000 AIDS cases have been linked to intravenous drug use.

Prevention Point received the Norman E. Zinberg Award for Achievement in the field of Medicine and Treatment and a cash prize of $10,000 in November 1991 from the Drug Policy Foundation.