As the evidence favoring needle exchange mounts, so do the casualties lost to the AIDS scourge. A recently completed study by Dr. Dawn Day, Director of the Dogwood Center, found that drug-related AIDS cases now constitute 44% of all new AIDS cases in 1994 where the means of transmission of the virus is known. Furthermore, the majority of new cases are among African-American and Hispanic males age 13 and older.
"The wave of AIDS cases among Black and Hispanic Americans can be slowed if clean needles are exchanged for ones used by drug injectors," said Dr. Day in announcing her data. "Without following public health doctrine 101 -- interrupting the spread of disease -- this epidemic is on a course that will simply overwhelm American medicine, American cities, and people of color," she said.
Between 1990 and 1994, the number of new drug-related AIDS cases rose 90 percent among African American and Hispanic men age 13 and older. Dr. Day's research points out the lopsided shape of the wave of new AIDS cases. "A key to understanding this epidemic is to look at the rates, not the total numbers which tend to hide where new AIDS cases are striking. The rate of African- American new AIDS cases at 109 per thousand who inject drugs is five times greater than the rate of 22 new cases per thousand for white drug injectors. The rate for Hispanic drug injectors is 94 per thousand. The deaths we're going to see will be simply staggering," Dr. Day said.
"Current drug abuse prevention and treatment programs are not protecting Blacks and Hispanics from AIDS. These are truly crisis numbers. We must follow the advice of organizations such as the National Commission on HIV and AIDS, appointed by President Bush and make clean needle exchanges available to injecting drug users," said Dr. Day.
"In 1994, CDC reports, there were 28,522 new drug-related AIDS cases: 15,207 of those cases were among African-American and Hispanic males age 13 and older. This is over half of all such cases. CDC-commissioned studies of anti-AIDS strategies show strongly that providing clean needles to drug users in exchange for used needles can cut the spread of AIDS. Each new AIDS case, on average, is going to cost society $120,000. Providing health care for these people -- whose fatal illness we could have prevented -- will cost us $3.4 billion," said Dr. Day.
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