The New York Times came out with a very strong, even harsh, editorial last week that’s worth noting.
Public health advocates held an understandably muted celebration when President Obama signed a bill repealing a 21-year-old ban on federal financing for programs that supply clean needles to drug addicts.
The bill brought an end to a long and bitter struggle between the public health establishment â€” which knew from the beginning that the ban would cost lives â€” and ideologues in Congress who had closed their eyes to studies showing that making clean needles available to addicts slowed the rate of infection from H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, without increasing drug use.
But the shift in policy comes too late for the tens of thousands of Americans â€” drug addicts and their spouses, lovers and unborn children â€” who have died from AIDS and AIDS-related diseases. Many of these people would not have become infected had Congress followed sound medical advice and embraced the use of clean needles.
It’s good for the New York Times to bring this level of condemnation to such horrific Congressional policy. Yet it means less after the fact. Surely, there are other horrific Congressional policies related to drugs that could be condemned now, and thereby avert needless loss of life, rather than merely bemoaning the loss later?