Californians Support Needle Exchange, Condoms for Prisoners
Contra Costa Times
11.13.02; Taunya English
According to a survey conducted by the state Department of
Health Services and the University of California-Berkeley, the
majority of Californians support access to clean needles for
injection drug users and condoms for prisoners to fight the
spread of HIV.
"These clearly make sense and the survey indicates
strong support that the state should pay for these
programs," said lead researcher Joel Moskowitz. While
Contra Costa and Alameda counties declared local states of
emergency in 1999 to access county money for needle exchange
programs, most California counties prohibit the use of county
funds for such programs. Sexual activity is illegal in state
prisons, and distributing condoms would send a mixed message,
said Terry Thornton, spokesperson for the California
Department of Corrections.
The survey showed that 62 percent of Californians believe
condoms for prisoners and needle exchange policies are
effective and support state funding to carry them out. Fifty
percent or more of Californians support requiring HIV testing
for pregnant women, requiring physicians to report HIV cases
to the state, and providing clean needles to injection drug
users in prison. "These are more radical than some of the
current approaches," said Maya Tholandi, a study
co-author from the state Office of AIDS. Ten to 19 percent of
California's 126,000 reported AIDS cases can be traced to
injection drug use, she said.
Nearly everyone who participated in the telephone survey
correctly answered questions about the likely methods of
contracting HIV, such as having unprotected sex with an
HIV-positive person or sharing a needle with someone with HIV.