Clean Needle Swap Curbed Pending Study

Associated Press

The Senate today approved a ban on federal money for programs that distribute clean needles to drug addicts unless the surgeon general finds that such methods will curb the spread of AIDS.

The amendment to an AIDS research and information spending bill was a compromise reached after the Senate rejected two outright bans pushed by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). The conditional ban was approved on a voice vote after a 70-27 vote to modify the outright ban.

The AIDS bill, sponsored by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), is attracting a mass of controversial amendments ranging from the clean-needle ban to restrictions on federally funded AIDS education materials.

Public health authorities in some places are trying to stem the rapid spread of AIDS among drug addicts by allowing them to turn in dirty needles which may be contaminated and receive clean ones.

'Results Are Mixed'

"It's far too early to make a final judgment on the needle-exchange program. The results are mixed. There hasn't been adequate research," said Kennedy, sponsor of the compromise amendment.

The amendment says money under the bill could not go for clean needles for individuals for the purpose of using illegal drugs, unless the surgeon general finds such programs help stop either drug addiction or the spread of AIDS.

After the vote Helms condemned the compromise, saying Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has already said needle-exchange programs may be a good idea. "It's just a matter of time" before federal money is spent on them, Helms said.

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