The next Anaheim City Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 27th. The meeting usually begins at 5:00 pm at City Hall (200 S. Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805). The meeting will include a public hearing to determine if the emergency ordinance banning the establishment of needle exchange programs within the city should be extended.
City Staff is recommending the extension of the ban be for another twelve months. The following link will pull up the agenda item’s staff report and provides additional details. https://local.anaheim.net/docs_agend/questys_pub/22593/22623/22626/23014/23026/Staff%20Report23026.pdf
Access to clean syringes helps reduce the spread of blood-borne pathogens like HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. Needle exchange programs were originally introduced to provide addicts with access to clean needles, however such programs have negatively affected their surrounding neighborhoods. They exacerbate the difficulties a neighborhood may already experience with drug dealing by attracting even more addicts and drug dealers. Generous exchange policies, like offering twenty clean syringes for every dirty one, result in used needles littering the surrounding parks, public spaces, schools and communities. In measuring whether needle exchange programs provide a greater benefit or harm, I would argue that the scale now clearly points to “Cause More Harm”.
Needle exchange programs have become obsolete in California because clean syringes are now easily accessible in our state and advances in medical science have reduced the public health threat from Hep B, Hep C and HIV. It turns out that only a small number of Orange County residents become infected with a blood-borne disease each year. Drug addiction and transmission of HIV through unsafe sexual interaction are much more prevalent.
The 2014 passage of AB1743 gave easy access to clean syringes for intravenous drug users. AB1743 made it legal for adults to purchase needles from pharmacies without a prescription. Syringes are also inexpensive. One only needs to perform a quick search on Amazon to see that packages of 100 can be purchased for $20 to $35. I even witnessed an individual purchase a single syringe at an Anaheim pharmacy for a dollar.
Thirty years ago, contracting HIV meant that the victim was destined to progress to AIDS and likely die in a few months. By 2011, an HIV infected individual could expect to live to the age of 70. Antiretroviral treatments are so successful that they can reduce the level of HIV in an individual’s blood to the point it is undetectable. This means that the individual’s own immune system is strong enough to fight off infections and certain HIV-related cancers. It also means that there is no risk of transmitting HIV to a non-infected partner via sex. Hepatitis B and C are also treatable.
Since 2009, Orange County has seen new HIV diagnoses at a rate of between 273 to 332 individuals per year. Roughly eighty-five to ninety percent of those new cases appear to be the result of unsafe sexual activity. New HIV diagnoses that may have come from intravenous drug use bounce around 30 cases per year. From 2014 to 2018, acute Hep B never exceeded a rate of 13 new cases per year and acute Hep C never exceeded an annual rate of 10 new cases. These are very small numbers since our county has roughly 3.2 million residents.
On the other side of the equation, drug addiction deaths have skyrocketed by 82% since 2000. Our county now sees around 700 overdose deaths each year. I believe we should be focusing on addiction recovery to reduce the overdose rate. Claims by needle exchange advocates that they help addicts feel better and safer about entering treatment programs have been disputed by addiction recovery professionals.
I also believe that we need to concentrate on safe sex education to most effectively shut down the spreading of HIV. Such education will have a secondary benefit of reducing the spread of Syphilis, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. From 2014 to 2018, new cases of Syphilis increased from 552 to 1221 per year in Orange County. New cases of Gonorrhea increased from 1780 to 3887 per year and new Chlamydia cases increased from 9,313 to 14,277 annually.
One day soon, we will see HIV and AIDS eradicated. There is no need for Anaheim to allow needle exchange programs to operate around our parks, schools and neighborhoods in order to achieve that goal.
Please join me in asking our City Council to extend the ban on needle exchange programs in our city for at least the next twelve months. I would prefer a permanent ban.
To have your voice heard on this matter, please consider speaking at the public comments portion of the Council Meeting or emailing the City Council at the following addresses:
Mayor Harry Sidhu — firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Pro-Tem Lucille Kring — email@example.com
Council Member Denise Barnes — firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Member Jordan Brandman — email@example.com
Council Member Jose Moreno — firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Member Stephen Faessel — email@example.com
Council Member Trevor O’Neill — firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you are interested, here are the links from where I obtained my information:
Amazon Syringe Prices – https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Diabetic+Syringes&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
HIV/AIDS Life Expectancy – http://www.natap.org/2016/CROI/croi_25.htm
Hepatitis B Info – https://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/digestive-diseases-hepatitis-b#1
Hepatitis C Info – https://www.epclusa.com/what-is-hep-c?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Awareness&utm_term=hepatitis%20c&utm_content=Hep+C+Only+-+Exact&gclid=Cj0KCQjwwIPrBRCJARIsAFlVT88W9b_cliouFfwXLAkJEmm4zPnL815Pw0zfvoW9oNmkYBZ2vjQx1ZgaAuFGEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
Orange County Drug Overdose Rate – http://www.ochealthinfo.com/about/admin/pubs/od
Orange County HIV Infection Rates – http://www.ochealthinfo.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=92260
Orange County Hep B, Hep C and STD Transmission Rates – http://www.ochealthinfo.com/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=94460