TRENTON – Senator Nia H. Gill, D-Essex, released the following statement today regarding Governor Jon Corzine’s signing of S-494, the “Blood-borne Disease Harm Reduction Act,” or “Needle Exchange” bill, which permits the establishment of sterile syringe access programs within municipalities:
“I am here today because we are saving lives.
“Today we take a major step in saving the many lives of New Jersey residents from the AIDS pandemic that is ravaging the word and our state. By enacting this legislation, we can begin to turn back the hands of time to change inaction to life-saving action.
“We would not have been successful without the leadership of Governor Jon Corzine, the courageous tenacity of Speaker Joe Roberts, the support of my co-prime Sponsor Senator Joe Gormley, the courtesy of Senate President Richard Codey, as well as the efforts of Senators Joe Vitale and Ray Lesniak, Ron Cash, Roseanne Scotti, and the activists in Atlantic City and Camden. They were persistent and forceful to help achieve what is right. They all deserve our thanks.
“It was a long, difficult fight. But I also want to take a moment to remember someone who began this fight. My predecessor, my mentor, and my role model, Senator Wynona Lipman, was one of the first to give voice to the voiceless on this issue. I’d like us all to remember Senator Lipman and her efforts.
“This bill signing signifies a victory for the people. The obstacles that we confronted became challenges that transformed the use of power to benefit the voiceless and powerless, and thus transformed the institutions from which power flows.
“Today, we have taken responsibility to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in this state by making access to clean needles part of our comprehensive strategy to combat this public health epidemic.
“The debate about needle exchange was filled with faceless statistics because of the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS – but they are not faceless. They are people who live in your community and people who live in mine. They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends, children, neighbors and co-workers.
“I am here today because these are the lives that we are saving.”