TRENTON – Senator Nia H. Gill today said the state appeals court ruling which will block the start of needle exchange programs in Atlantic City and Camden is “yet another delay which will cost lives” in the face of efforts to thwart the spread of HIV and AIDS in New Jersey.
“The faces of HIV/AIDS are the faces of women and children,” said Senator Gill, D-Montclair. “These are the lives that are paying the price for failed action.”
Senator Gill said sharing dirty needles is the leading cause for the spread of HIV/AIDS in New Jersey, accounting for 50 percent of all cases.
“There are two new cases of infection every day because of sharing dirty needles, yet unlike the rest of the nation and many foreign countries, our state appears to prefer the status quo, choosing not to use the proven tool of needle exchange programs.”
Senator Gill said New Jersey has the highest rate of HIV infection among women in the nation, with African-American and Latino women accounting for 81 percent of those infected in New Jersey . The State also has the third highest pediatric HIV rate in the nation, with 89 percent of all cases being African-American and Latino children, she said.
“Coretta Scott King could not have been more correct on World Aids Day when she stated that the present day civil rights struggle for social justice and equality is the struggle to address and eradicate the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in our community,” Senator Gill said.
Pending an appeal, the preliminary injunction issued by the Appellate Division of Superior Court blocks the two pilot programs from starting up as expected on July 1. The programs, to be supervised by the State Department of Health, would provide intravenous drug users with access to clean syringes in exchange for used needles. In addition, program participants would have access to health care and addiction services.
“It has long been established that sterile exchange programs are an effective tool in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Senator Gill said. “No evidence has ever been found to show that needle exchange programs promote drug use.”
New Jersey and Delaware are the only two states in the country that have not allowed access to clean needles.