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Needle Exchange Might Help Check AIDS Spread, Report Says

March 26, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Controversial programs that let drug addicts exchange used needles for sterile ones show ″some promise″ in preventing AIDS, a congressional auditing agency said Friday.

But the General Accounting Office said it found evidence that only two of the nine needle exchange projects it studied reduced sharing of used needless among addicts.

Sharing of needles is one means of transmitting AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

The GAO, the analytical and investigative arm of Congress, said that five projects reported that providing sterile needles did not lead to increased drug use.

And it said seven of the projects reported success in referring participants to drug treatment programs.

But Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who asked the GAO to examine the results of needle-exchange programs, called the results inconclusive.

″GAO’s report does little to dispel my strong reservations about needle exchange programs,″ Rangel said in a statement. ″It does convince me that existing evidence simply does not support a wide-scale expansion of needle programs as some have advocated.″

Rangel said he believes that ″clean needles are no substitute for a firm commitment to make effective, comprehensive drug abuse treatment available to all who want and need such help and to use aggressive outreach and prevention efforts to bring addicts into treatment.″

″Experts are agreed that comprehensive drug treatment offers the best opportunity to halt the spread of drug-related AIDS,″ Rangel said.

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