(American Academy of Pediatrics) encourages pediatricians to
back needle exchange programs that reduce the spread of HIV
CARLA K. JOHNSON
Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO ? Pediatricians should speak out in support of
needle exchangeprograms to reduce the spread of HIV among
injection drug users, the American Academy of Pediatrics
says in a toughened policy statement. Doctors also should
discuss HIV risk with their teenage patients "with a
nonjudgmental approach" and offer confidential help if local
laws allow, the group says in the statement appearing Monday
in the journal Pediatrics."If we can help young people avoid
a chronic illness that we have no cure for, I would hope
people would embrace that idea," said the lead author, Dr.
Lisa Henry-Reid of Chicago's John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital.
The previous version of the group's policy, dated 1994, said
clean needle programs should be "encouraged and expanded."
Half of new HIV infections in the United States are among
people younger than 25, Henry-Reid said.
Unprotected sex is the most common way young people become
infected, but sharing dirty needles or having sex with an
injection drug user accounts for about 13 percent of youth
The policy drew criticism from Wendy Wright of Concerned
Women for America, the group that last year blasted the
pediatricians' academy for its support of over-the-counter
emergency contraception. "The recommendation will not rescue
patients and neither does it promote
healthy behavior," Wright said. "Instead, they have been
promoting programs that encourage riskier activities."
The new policy statement says of needle exchange programs,
which let addicts trade dirty syringes for clean ones:
"Pediatricians should advocate for unencumbered access to
sterile syringes and improved knowledge about
decontamination of injection equipment."
The beefed-up wording is based on research showing the
programs reduce HIV infection, said Dr. Peter Havens of the
Medical College of Wisconsin, a member of the committee that
wrote the policy. Needle exchange programs can include
counseling to further reduce risky
behavior, but opponents say they work against efforts to
fight drug abuse.
Congress has banned federal funding of needle exchange
programs, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
says they can reduce the spread of disease without
increasing drug use.
Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have needle
exchange programs, according to the nonprofit North American
Syringe Exchange Network.
On the Net:Pediatrics:http://www.pediatrics.org/