New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) on Tuesday signed into law a bill that allows six cities in the state to establish needle-exchange programs and provides $10 million to drug treatment programs in the state, the New York Times reports (Chen, New York Times, 12/20). New Jersey has the highest new HIV infection rate among women in the U.S. and ranks fifth in HIV prevalence in the country. In addition, it is the only state that does not allow injection drug users access to clean needles through community-based needle-exchange programs or with a prescription. According to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, 14% of new HIV/AIDS cases in the state in 2005 were attributed to injection drug use. The state health commissioner under the legislation must report to the governor and Legislature on whether the needle-exchange program is effective. In addition, people who participate in and run the program would be required to carry identification cards that protect them from being arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia. Officials from Atlantic City, Camden and Patterson have said they are interested in establishing a needle-exchange program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/12). “It’s long overdue,” Corzine said at the bill signing, adding, “We need to protect those we don’t know who have yet to be infected.” According to Corzine, the needle-exchange program is “an opportunity to draw people into treatment” for drug addiction (DeFalco, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/19).
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