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Press Release -- AIDS, Needles & Minorities


CONTACT:        DAWN DAY, Ph.D., (609) 924-4797 

                ERIC E. STERLING, (202) 835-9075




Princeton, N.J. -- The majority of America's new drug-related AIDS cases are among African-American and Hispanic males age 13 and older, according to an analysis of CDC's latest data by Dr. Dawn Day, the Director of the Dogwood Center. Drug-related AIDS cases now constitute 44% of all new AIDS cases in 1994 where the means of transmission of the virus is known. The percentage is rapidly growing. The sharing of hypodermic syringes for the injection of illegal drugs is the number one cause of this rapid increase.

"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.

The most comprehensive study of needle exchange programs, initiated during the Bush Administration, was conducted by the University of California, San Francisco. Its findings were that needle-exchange programs are likely to reduce the spread of AIDS and do not appear to increase the use of illegal drugs. The study and its findings were further evaluated by the Centers for Disease Control (with input from the National Institutes of Health and other Federal substance abuse agencies) in December 1993. That review endorsed the study's conclusions and recommended ending the Federal ban on funding needle exchange programs. For more information on the needle exchange study, contact Peter Lurie, M.D., M.P.H., at the University of California, San Francisco at (415) 597-9138.

Dawn Day is the Director of the Dogwood Center, an independent research center in Princeton, N.J. She was a member of the Carnegie Corporation-funded team that analyzed changes in the lives of African Americans. Her work on household energy consumption has been funded by the Ford Foundation. She has taught at Brooklyn College and the University of Maryland.

Dr. Day is a member of the National Drug Strategy Network. She is the author and co-author of several books on racial discrimination: Adoption Agencies and the Adoption of Black Children (Lexington Books, 1979); Protest, Politics, and Prosperity: Black Americans in White Institutions, 1940-1975 (Pantheon, 1978 (co-author); The Negro and Discrimination in Employment (University of Michigan Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, 1965); The American Energy Consumer (Ballinger, 1975, co-author). Currently she is writing a book on illicit drugs and racial injustice. She holds both a Ph.D. in Sociology and an M.S.W. in social work from the University of Michigan. The Dogwood Center, P.O. Box 187, Princeton, N.J. 08542, (609) 924-4797, e-mail: [email protected]

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