WRAL Documentary To Examine Needle Exchange

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WRAL Documentary To Examine Needle Exchange
Airs Wednesday, September 7 at 7:30pm

Focal Point In the last two decades, 27,000 North Carolinians have been infected with HIV and AIDS. Thousands were IV drug users who got the disease by sharing tainted needles with other addicts.

Public health officials argue that one way to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS is to reduce needle sharing among IV drug users. They say easier access to clean needles will cut the risk of infection and better protect the overall health of North Carolina’s communities. In its newest documentary, “The Point of Contention,” WRAL-TV examines the controversial practice of needle exchange and recent efforts to legalize it in North Carolina. WRAL News anchor Gerald Owens hosts the program, which airs Wednesday, September 7, 2005, at 7:30pm.

Needle exchange programs operate legally in a number of states, but the practice is against the law in North Carolina. In recent years, advocacy groups in Asheville and High Point have distributed clean needles to drug users as part of overall public outreach programs. What they do is technically illegal, but one North Carolina lawmaker has made it his mission to change the law and bring needle exchange out of the shadows.

Since the mid-1990s, North Carolina Representative Thomas Wright has filed a succession of bills to establish and fund needle exchange programs in the state. In every instance, those bills have failed. Political experts say the needle exchange issue is explosive and emotional, and few lawmakers want to get involved.

Needle exchange opponents say the practice sends a conflicting message to drug users and is not an effective answer to the HIV/AIDS problem. They say it’s better to get addicts into counseling than to give them clean needles to feed their drug habit.

The Point of Contention” profiles people at the heart of the debate – an IV drug user who gets clean needles from a needle exchange program; the director of that underground program in High Point who says he is willing to risk arrest to carry out his mission; and lawmakers and advocates on all sides of the emotional issue.

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Debbie Strange for this capcom story.

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