Needle Exchange: The President Vs. AIDS Warriors
Bill Clinton’s “Commitment” to AIDS Battle-- World War III-- Fades 
Compiled by Badpuppy’s GayToday
Presidential Press Conference, April 30 

Question:  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?  

THE 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 the border.  

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 on it.   

Opposing Viewpoints

“At best this is hypocrisy. At worst it’s a lie. And no matter what, its  immoral.” 

--Dr. 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.” 

--Dr. Peter Lurie, publisher of the first government-financed 
survey 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.” 

--Representative Nancy Pelosi, (D-California) 

“This is a purely cynical political effort that must be defeated. 
Extremist  members of Congress are trying to undermine needle 
exchange programs, and they must be stopped!” 

--Alert by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force