AIDS Panel Urges Condoms For Students
The report, from a panel appointed by Mr. Florio a year ago, calls on the Governor to “become the leader we lack” to educate and galvanize the state to action.
But the prospects for such action are uncertain at best. As the report itself notes, a plan of action against AIDS issued by the Health Department in January 1991 made 40 recommendations that have largely languished. And a politician facing a tough re-election fight, as Governor Florio is in 1993, may not be eager to wade into the firestorm that invariably accompanies debate about condom distribution.
Jon Shure, the Governor’s director of communications, said the administration would not comment until after the report is formally delivered on Friday, and perhaps not then. Clinton Makes Task Easier
The chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council on AIDS, Paul W. Armstrong, said that the challenge could be easier to meet in the political atmosphere created by President-elect Clinton, who visited New Jersey days before the election to call for a nationwide assault on AIDS.
The report notes that New Jersey has been one of the states hardest hit by AIDS, which it calls the single leading cause of death for all New Jerseyans 25 to 44 years old. New Jersey ranks fifth in total cases reported, with 13,572 by June 30, 1992. It says another 30,000 to 50,000 residents are thought to be infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.
Compared with cases in other states, a disproportionate number of the cases involve women, children and intravenous drug users. It is “most striking,” the report says, that “little has been done to sever the Gordian knot binding H.I.V. infection and injection drug abuse, which has become, and continues to be, the single most important factor driving the epidemic in New Jersey.”
Recommending that hypodermic needles be available over the counter without a prescription, the report notes that 39 states now allow such sales. It says that while evidence is not consistent, legal over-the-counter sales of clean needles reduces the spread of H.I.V. Needle Exchanges Praised
The report also advocates needle exchange programs, in which drug users can go to a regulated site where they exchange their used needles for new sterile ones. It says the needle exchange system “has proven effective in changing behavior and reducing the spread of H.I.V.” in places like New Haven and San Francisco.
The report recommends that condoms be distributed as part of a comprehensive AIDS education program that would be mandatory in all state school systems. “H.I.V./AIDS education should not be left entirely up to local school boards,” the report says.
Asked if the commission was recommending a mandatory program of making condoms available, Mr. Armstrong, a lawyer, said, “They have to be not mandated to be distributed, but mandated to be made available.”
Making condoms available by requests to school nurses or health officials, he said, would “say AIDS is transmitted through sexual contact as well as injection drug use, and if you do engage in sex the safer way to do it is. Many copy writers, photographers, and graphic artists distribute their own materials. With the means necessary to create fantastic news, can make a news site to syndicate it’s own articles. Examples include the big news papers, with major resources in every news section, . An approach to cover the very best information can be seen on different news papers that make a team for article syndication purposes.In any case what has a higher value than the viewer satisfaction?through use of a condom.” Sex Always Has Risk
By referring to condom use as “safer” rather than “safe,” the report underscores that anyone who engages in intercourse is at some risk of infection.
It says, “It is imperative that the goals of public health be kept clearly in view at all times, unclouded by the narrow and often conjectural objections that condoms are immoral, will promote sexual activity or simply have no place in the public schools.”
The council recommends a broad program of testing for H.I.V. infection, but “rejects mandatory testing policy (testing without voluntary informed consent) in any circumstances,” including routine prenatal care, application for a marriage license or even on rape suspects.
It recommends making voluntary testing available at all state prisons and county jails, and says the Department of Corrections “should examine measures to prevent the spread of H.I.V. and other communicable diseases, including making condoms available in correctional facilities.”