March #21 : Out in the Cold - by Walter Armstrong and Ronnilyn Pustil

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Table of Contents

Larry Kramer Gets Angry

Radiant Radical

Adventures in Brain Chemistry

Cackles, Cauldrons, and Carrots

Johnny Appleseed

The Way To a Man's Heart

Tools of the Trade

Life Imitates Art

S.O.S.-March 1997

Mailbox-March 1997

Notes of a Native Son

Out in the Cold

Cocktail Hour

Gallo's Humor

Vanity Unfair

Uh-Oh, Canada

Dental Damns

School for Scandal

"Provide" Services

Goes Around, Comes Around

Whatever Happened to Mary Jane

The Buddy Line

Rebel YELL

Bull's Eye

Body at Work

Alive and Kicking

ACTing UP All Over

All in Good Time

Tabling the Situation

POZ Picks-March 1997

ACT UP's First Days

5,985 and Counting

A Specific Point of View

Dead Gorgeous

Sex and the Single Positoid

Misplaced Lust

The Anger Channel

Dose of Reality

Feeling Blue? Much to Do!

Kicking Butt

Expand Your Medicine Cabinet

Wean on Me

Feeling Queasy? Help is Easy

The Right Stuff

A Load Off His Mind

Carbo Diem

Monkey Business

Taking Action

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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March 1997

Out in the Cold

by Walter Armstrong and Ronnilyn Pustil

Drug users denied needles in needless Alaska study

Advocates are scrambling to shut down a needle-exchange study in Anchorage, Alaska. Why? It's Tuskegee II, they charge. The project, led by University of Alaska's Dr. Dennis Fisher, would assign some 600 users to either a "treatment" group-those who could trade dirty needles for clean ones-or a "control" group-those who could not. People in the control group would be turned away frm exchanges and given a list of local pharmacies that sell syringes. Researchers would test each group to determine the incidence of HIV and hepatitis B.

In a letter to Dr. Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funded the $2.4 million project, Dr. Peter Lurie, a leading needle-exchange researcher at the University of California, and Sidney M. Wolfe, executive director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, demanded the study be aborted: "It's unconscionable for the NIH to fund a project that violates basic research ethics in a manner the researchers themselves admit 'represents the withholding of a potentially life-saving service.'" The study deprives participants of two effective means of disease prevention-no-cost clean needles and hep B vaccine. Varmus reviewed the study, and-as POZ went to press-gave it the green light, with this major concession to activists: Researchers must provide everyone in the study with hep B vaccine.

In a bit of guerilla research by Lurie and Wolfe, three volunteers found that a mere 14 percent of Anchorage pharmacies sold sterile syringes without harassing the customer.

Fisher attacked Lurie's activist tactics: "Lurie immediately politicized his criticism by going to the press. He tried to set up another exchange in Anchorage and shipped needles here to destroy my study. That's not what somebody with a genuine concern for public health does."

But Lurie asks, "Who has a greater concern for public health-someone who opens a needle exchange for all drug-users, or someone who excludes drug-users to get a big grant?"

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