Press Release  | 11/17/2011

New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee to Vote on Sterile Syringe Access Legislation to Prevent the Spread of HIV/AIDS

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Committee Scheduled for Monday, November 21, 10 a.m.; Bill Would Allow Over-the-Counter Sale of Limited Numbers of Syringes in Pharmacies

Public Health, and HIV Prevention Advocates Urge Passage of Life-Saving Legislation

Trenton—On Monday, November 21, the New Jersey Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee will consider life-saving legislation to allow for the sale of a limited numbers of syringes in pharmacies without a prescription.  The hearing will be held at 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 16 on the 4th floor of the State House Annex.  New Jersey is one of only two states (the other state is Delaware) that completely ban over-the-counter sale of syringes.

Every scientific, medical, and professional body to study the issue has concluded that access to sterile syringes reduces the spread of blood-borne diseases and does not increase drug use.  Although syringe access programs have existed in New Jersey since 2006, the law providing for their establishment capped the number of permissible locations at six.  This limit, and the fact that lack of funding precludes the expansion of the programs, makes over-the-counter sale of syringe critical in the fight against HIV and hepatitis C.

Advocates are urging committee members to vote yes on this important bill.  "It is long past time that New Jersey joined the overwhelming majority of states that allow for over-the-counter sales of syringes," said Roseanne Scotti, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. "This legislation will save the state money by allowing those at risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C to use their own money to protect their own health.  Year after year we have watched as other states changed their laws—New Jersey is now one of only two states clinging to this antiquated and harmful prohibition."  In the last several years, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Massachusetts have passed statutes allowing for sale of syringes without a prescription.

Assembly Bill 1088 is sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex), Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D-Bergen), Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex), Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D-Bergen and Hudson) and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Essex and Passaic).

In addition to promoting the health and safety of injection drug users by expanding their access to sterile syringes, the legislation would also benefit diabetics and others who must use injectable medications.

The Senate companion bill, S958, passed with broad bipartisan support last February by a vote of 28-12, and the Assembly has twice-approved versions of this legislation in past sessions.

Assembly Bill 1088 is supported by a long list of public health and advocacy organizations including: the American Diabetes Association, the Diabetes Foundation, Inc., the Garden State Association of Diabetes Educators, the New Jersey State Nurses Association, the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the Garden State Pharmacy Owners, the New Jersey Pharmacists Association, the New Jersey Council of Chain Drug Stores, the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Homeside Hospice, the Hepatitis C Association, Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, South Jersey AIDS Alliance, and Well-of-Hope Drop-In Center.

  • To date, more than 73,800 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported in New Jersey and nearly 39,000 people have died.
  • Minorities account for 76% of adult/adolescent HIV/AIDS cases and 78% of all persons living with HIV/AIDS.  
  • In New Jersey, 41% of all HIV/AIDS cases have been caused by the sharing of contaminated syringes, while nationally injection drug use accounts for only 17 percent of new infections.

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Roseanne Scotti 609-610-8243

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