Saturday, May 30, 2015

We Need a Needle Exchange Program

Americans have a history of making decisions based on their individual lives rather than on the lives of those around them. This ideal stems from our American belief system in the individual and our dependance on the "American Dream." In many cases this works but in specific cases--medical problems being one of them--it is better to think of the whole country, not just what is immediately around you.

Recently there has been an outbreak of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other needle related diseases in predominately red states that have been against needle exchange programs in the past. Now that their has been an outbreak in the red states, congressman that helped ban federal funding for needle exchange programs are now going back on what they had said in the past. Though the congressman may have saved their districts some money by preventing health programs that help prevent the spread in use of injected drugs and HIV, they are now seeing how much these programs are needed when there is an outbreak.

One of the best examples of these outbreaks of needle borne illnesses in a rural area is Scout County Indiana. This sparsely populated Indiana town had the largest HIV outbreak the state has ever seen. Though in the past the Indiana governor Mike Pence was against using tax dollars for medical needle exchange he started a program in Scout County and had astounding results. If congress had been funding programs in blue states that had formerly been the source of HIV outbreaks then hundreds if not thousands of people in big cities could have been kept from the virus that will likely end their lives.

Scout County is a perfect example of the effects of short-sightedness for medical emergency that an obsession with individual success can cause. Political differences and limited funds should come second to protecting American citizens, whether in blue or red states, from diseases. Greg Millet, vice president of policy at The Aids Foundation put it beautifully, "The virus doesn't know any politics." Health care should transcend class and political differences, if America can't keep its citizens healthy then what else matters?

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