|Bill Clinton’s “Commitment”
to AIDS Battle-- World War III-- Fades
Press Conference, April 30
Mr. President, General Barry McCaffrey is in the midst of controversy over
the needle exchange program, as well as a personality conflict. Mr. President,
what are your words to General McCaffrey's detractors, especially those
in your Cabinet, your administration, and those Democrats in the CBC that
are joining Newt Gingrich to get McCaffrey out of the Drug Czar's Office?
PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think we ought to look at his record.
I think he's got quite a commendable record. We have more than double --
we've had a strategy that was as follows with the drug issue: One, to try
to help parents teach their children that drugs are wrong and illegal and
can kill you. Two, to try to support local law enforcement efforts and
local community efforts at not only punishment, but prevention. Three,
to try to increase our capacity to stop drugs from coming in at the border.
We more than doubled border
guards, for example, from 3,000 to 6,000. We've got another 1,000 coming
in this budget. We've got a fund set aside in the highway bill to increase
the technological capacity of the government to stop drugs coming in at
And General McCaffrey has
been behind a lot of that. He's also done enormous work with the supply
countries and Latin America, trying to get them to work with us. And he's
made some real headway. He's one of the reasons we've got this alliance
against drugs at the last Summit of the Americas. He supported huge increases
in funding for treatment and for testing and treatment for inmates not
only in federal, but in state and local penitentiaries. So I think he's
got a good record.
Now, he believes that the
benefits of needle exchange are uncertain and that the message you send
out is not good, that somehow the government is empowering drug use. There
are people all over the country who agree with that. Now, the weight of
medical research and the American Medical Association has a different view.
Their view is that it may help to lower the transmission of HIV, and there
is no evidence that it increases drug use.
I think -- if I might, I
mean, that's the next logical question, why did we make the decision we
did -- because the weight of scientific evidence was what I just said.
But if you look at it, it's clear -- if you go all across the American
cities or go to Vancouver, Canada, anyplace where they've had a needle
exchange program where there has been serious testing, the only place it
really works to reduce HIV transmission and to reduce drug use is when
the people who come in to exchange needles get pulled into treatment programs.
So the real issue is, will
there be more funds for treatment. And that's, obviously -- I'm getting
as much money out there as I can, but that's why I think it should remain
a local decision and why I made the decision I did, and why I'd like to
see this controversy put behind us, because I think in a way, in terms
of impact on people, it has been -- there has been more heat than light
“At best this is hypocrisy.
At worst it’s a lie. And no matter what, its immoral.”
Scott Hitt, President’s Advisory Council on HIV & AIDS
“There are states that for
years have hidden behind federal opposition to needle exchange to
justify their own inaction. (This decision) means state and local officials
will have to push forward for needle exchange even in the face of the federal
government’s cowardice….It is frustrating in the extreme to see political
considerations take precedence over public-health ones, particularly when
a huge cost in human life is predictable.”
Peter Lurie, publisher of the first government-financed
of the effectiveness of needle exchange programs.
“It defies logic to determine
a program’s efficacy and then not fund the program, especially in the middle
of an epidemic. The administration’s decision shows a lack of political
will in the midst of a public-health emergency.”
Nancy Pelosi, (D-California)
“This is a purely cynical
political effort that must be defeated.
of Congress are trying to undermine needle
exchange programs, and they
must be stopped!”
by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force