The critique of needle-exchange programs by Rep. Mark Souder contained a number of inaccuracies [letters, Aug. 23]. For one, the Canadian studies in Montreal and Vancouver are cited mistakenly as evidence against the effectiveness of needle-exchange programs. However, last year on the op-ed page of the New York Times, the authors of those studies wrote that their research was being misinterpreted. They stated that a comprehensive approach, including needle exchange, was needed to reduce the spread of HIV among injection-drug users.

More recently, two Canadian studies found no evidence that needle-exchange programs increase HIV transmission and provide additional evidence in support of the effectiveness of these programs.

Mr. Souder also misinterprets recent data from needle-exchange programs in Baltimore. In fact, the researchers from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health state that their studies support the role of needle-exchange programs as part of comprehensive HIV prevention in Baltimore.

We are concerned about the increasing number of politicians who cite science as the rationale for not funding needle-exchange programs. The science supporting needle exchanges is clear and has been for some time.

In April 1998, nine leading government scientists -- including the director of the National Institutes of Health, the surgeon general, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse -- reviewed all of the research and unanimously agreed that needle exchanges are effective and do not encourage drug use. Additionally, numerous respected organizations -- including the National Academy of Sciences, National Institutes of Health, American Medical Association, American Bar Association and the American Public Health Association -- have reviewed the research on needle-exchange programs and come to the conclusion that they are effective.


Chief Executive Officer

American Foundation for AIDS Research


Dean, Mailman School of Public Health

Columbia University

New York