To the Editor:

The city council is wise to move their needle exchange programs out of city parks and into indoor facilities with more comprehensive services.

Needle Exchanges are commonly justified by the belief they will prevent infectious disease; unfortunately, users of needle exchanges are more likely to become HIV positive. The best designed prospective study by Julie Bruneau of Montreal found addicts that always used needle exchanges were 10-22.5 times MORE likely to become HIV positive than those who never did. Similarly, a 1999 study by Holly Hagen of Needle Exchanges in Seattle found them to be associated with a greater chance of becoming positive with Hepatitis B and C. Two Vancouver studies (Strathdee, 1997 and Schechter, 1999) found similar results.

A sensible drug policy should account for these counterintuitive but scientifically-reproducible findings. Needle exchanges can be beneficial for connecting addicts to recovery and other supportive services, which is more likely to happen in a bricks-and-mortar facility than in a park. The scientific evidence is in: needle exchanges focused only on sterile injection equipment such as those in Santa Monica’s parks cause net harm to addicts.

Thomas J. Busse, Long Beach