New Jersey, with the fifth highest number of AIDS cases in the U.S., yesterday became the last state to allow intravenous drug users to get clean needles, hoping it will slow the spread of the deadly virus, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. Gov. Jon Corzine ended a 13-year stalemate by signing a law to permit six places to host needle exchange sites, where clean syringes and referrals to drug treatment will be available. The bill includes $10 million for drug treatment and counseling.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker campaigned on a platform supporting legalizing needle exchange programs. Sen. Ronald Rice of Newark, the most outspoken opponent of needle exchange, has said providing clean needles will only exacerbate Newark’s crime and gang problems. “I don’t know what the council is going to do, but if you go door-to-door, the majority of the residents of Newark are opposed to giving out needles, given the problems we have in the community,” Rice said. “I think it’s a dangerous move.”