Southeast : Long Beach Vote on Needle Program Sets Stage for Fight

Heading for a possible clash with Gov. Pete Wilson, the Long Beach City Council voted 6-3 Tuesday to draft a bill that would allow the exchange of dirty syringes for clean ones on a limited basis to fight AIDS.

The action came in response to a staff report that said such programs, although illegal in California, have proved effective in controlling the spread of the disease.

Long Beach has the second-highest incidence of AIDS in the state behind San Francisco. More than 2,700 cases have been reported in the city, with 14% of them related to injection drug use.

Wilson vetoed a bill last year that would have allowed California cities and counties to exchange drug addicts' dirty needles. He said such programs could trigger an increase in the use of intravenous drugs.

However, Councilman Mike Donelon said Long Beach needs more power to institute "whatever measures are needed to prevent the spread of the disease."

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