Former Surgeon General Koop Defends Needle Exchange
July 26, 1999
Honorable Dennis Hastert
U. S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
Having worked on the HIV/AIDS epidemic since its emergence in the U.S., I am now writing to express my strong belief that local programs of clean needle exchange can be an effective means of preventing the spread of the disease without increasing the use of illicit drugs. While I do not believe that clean needle programs are a panacea for all settings, it is clear from careful and well-documented public health studies that such programs have worked in many areas and have great potential for making further reductions in the incidence of new infections.
Consequently, it would be counterproductive for the Congress to enact a Federal measure that would limit the ability of local and State public health agencies and voluntary organizations to carry out needle exchange programs. Such action by the Congress would undoubtedly result in HIV infections that could have been prevented and would unnecessarily enlarge and prolong the epidemic. If local authorities or organizations determine that needle exchange programs are appropriate to the epidemic as it affects their communities, the Congress should allow them to use all possible measures and funding sources to stem the spread of this deadly disease.
I urge you to oppose any effort to limit the public health response to the AIDS epidemic.
C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D.