Well, this is the message I get from Republicans, and their continued blockage of federal and state funds for needle exchange programs.
In massachusetts, needle exchange programs are credited with helping reduce new cases of HIV attributable to IV drug use from 41% in 1995 to 10% in 2009. And an overall drop in new cases by 54%. Of course- this also saved roughly 6,ooo lives and 2Billion dollars in state health care costs.
Yet when republicans took control of congress again federal funding for needle exchanges quicly was axed. And it is no surprise that states that fund such programs are almost entirely democratic.
I find this odd as the majority of republicans also profess christianity, and did not, according to them, Jesus say “That which you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me”. Yep, the same man, who according to them, also threw the moneychangers from the temple, saying it is easier to pass a camel through the eyo of a needle then for a rich man to ender the kningdom of god. The same man who eschewed the rich, the leaders, and preferred the company of the working poor, the prostitutes, the lepers of society…a man whose life was apparently all about forgiveness…
Yes, I’ll be the first to admit- IV drug users have made some mistakes. But who are we to judge the circumstances that brought them to this point, or to think that they are somehow less deserving of our compassion?
What is the problem with needle exchanges? I have never heard of any non drug user saying lets go to the needle exchange and try some heroin. Indeed- fro most I think it wuld do more to turn them off to heroin then any amound of laws or propaganda. But the fact remains that diseases such as hepatitis and HIV are killing IV drug users at a rate that greatly exceeds the drugs themselves. And let’s face it- these same diseases can be spread via intimate contact- which ultimately puts all of society at increased risk.
And besides the obvious harm reduction of preventing disease, needle exchanges have other benefits. OFten they are staffed by ex-addicts who made it through. People who understand what these people are going through, and can offer both experience and hope. IT also sends a message- you are not forgotten. While subtle- it’s impact can be huge. Many of these people have been through things few of us can imagine- even before their descent into addiction. And any message that they are not forgotten, and that they are still humans that can be helped, is priceless.
So tell me again, why do they deserve to die?