Needles in the 'New Normal'

Preston Peet ptpeet at nyc.rr.com
Fri Oct 15 09:51:49 EDT 2004


http://valleyadvocate.com/gbase/News/content?oid=oid:85585
Needles in the 'New Normal'
With a War on Terror -- or even a War on Terrorism -- raging, who has time
to worry about dirty needles, heroin or the spread of AIDS?
by Tom Vannah - October 14, 2004
Between the Lines
If you're against needle exchange, I hope it's because you really don't care
to help stop IV drug users from infecting themselves and others. Maybe you
feel ambivalent toward heroin addicts and their sexual partners. Maybe you
even dislike them. Great! If that's why you're against giving them clean
needles, at least you're making sense. Just don't be one of those
compassionate souls who claim to be against needle exchange because they
know of better ways to help drug addicts. Too many are dying already from
that kind of compassion.
Springfield, a city that has long had an alarming AIDS problem, traced in
part to transmission among IV users, will once again briefly consider and
eventually reject needle exchange. In fact, the Springfield Republican 's
Mike Plaisance recently fashioned a piece assuring his readers that the city
council is expected to stop the yet-to-be formally proposed needle exchange
program solidly when it comes up later in the year, with only three of nine
councilors likely to support the initiative. (Way to get ahead of the news
there, Mike.) Hardly news, it's been the same thing for the last decade;
rejecting needle exchange is almost an annual event in Springfield.
Though needle exchange seems to be a particularly hot topic in
Springfield -- consider the rise of Citizen's Action Network, which activist
Karen Powell parlayed out of her earlier success with Citizens Against
Needle Exchange -- the fact is, there are only four municipalities in the
entire state that have needle exchange programs, Boston, Cambridge,
Provincetown and Northampton. You'd think other cities and towns would
clamor to be in that kind of company, but for a variety of reasons, most
couched in expressions of deep concern for public health, none appear
remotely likely to give needle exchange a chance.
In fairness,Springfield deserves credit for at least raising the issue. City
Councilor Bud Williams plans to push it again this year. He's a
garden-variety hack who rarely puts his shoulder into an issue, but it's
still good of Williams to remind his colleagues that they have a viable way
to take action against the spread of AIDS. It's unlikely that they'll take
action, however, preferring instead to debate the efficacy of needle
exchange as if there were some other, better initiative available. For
example, City Councilor Tim Rooke opposes needle exchange because, to pick
up on recent comments to the Republican , a lot of addicts already have
AIDS, so clean needles won't help them.
"It doesn't do what it's supposed to do," Rooke said, as if proponents were
promising that clean needles cure AIDS rather than stop infected users from
spreading it to those yet to be infected.
Oh, well, Rooke is merely reflecting what he assumes are the prevailing
attitudes of his constituents. Sure, there are plenty of people in
Springfield with serious substance abuse problems. And when the problem is
booze or any one of the latest designer drugs -- Vicodin and Oxycotin, to
name two -- most people, probably even Rooke's constituents, deal with it as
a medical problem. But street drugs are another thing, and IV users are
still a class unto themselves. These are users who've been scapegoated for
decades by politicians -- many of them absolutely pickled -- "waging a war
on drugs" and "getting tough on crime." Tim Rooke seems like a caring guy
who harbors no real ill will toward IV drug addicts, but he also lacks the
gumption to work to change the minds of his constituents and make his city a
healthier, safer place.
Guys like Rooke are getting off easier nowadays, in what Fox News likes to
call the "new normal," than they once did. In the pre-9/11 days, it was
common for public officials to talk regularly about health and safety, among
other matters of domestic policy. In waging his ridiculously overblown War
on Terror (ominous organ chords should ring out whenever someone speaks or
writes that silly phrase), President Bush has effectively buried a host of
important public concerns. The cost, in human terms, of drug addiction and
the spread of AIDS and other diseases presents a far greater immediate
threat to citizens of the United States than anything Saddam was doing in
Iraq. But we won't be spending $87 billion to fight an infectious disease
anytime soon. Local pols like Rooke don't have to worry about being called
out for ignoring sickness and suffering in Springfield when there's a war
on.
snip-


Peace and love,
Preston Peet

"Madness is not enlightenment, but the search for enlightenment is often
mistaken for madness"
Richard Davenport-Hines

ptpeet at nyc.rr.com
Editor http://www.drugwar.com
Editor "Under the Influence- the Disinformation Guide to Drugs"
Cont. High Times mag/.com
Cont. Editor http://www.disinfo.com
Columnist New York Waste
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