June #24 : On Pins and Needles - by Walter Armstrong and Ronnilyn Pustil

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Table of Contents

Nowhere Else to Go

Great Escapes

Gotta Light?

The Great Sex Debate

Made in Japan

Clipped Wings

The Vinyl Solution

Into the Woods

Hazel's House

Open Windows

S.O.S.-June 1997

Mailbox-June 1997

Ad Lip

A Higher Standard

Just Not Like a Prayer

Who's Sore-y Now?

Say What-June 1997

Devil to Pay

Web of Cries

On Pins and Needles

Fatal Attraction

Cocktails for Kids

To B or Not to B

Pot Doc Stalked


Alexander the Great(ish)

POZ Picks-June 1997

Skin Traders

Absolutely Fabregas

Barbarians at the Gates

Borders on Madness

A Second Look

Painful Truths

Before the Revolution

Riding Bareback

The Fleecing of Oprah

Barrier Blues

Mixed and Matched

To Tell the Truth

The Borders of Health

Road Trip Grub Tips

Following Your HAART

TLC for Your Largest Organ

Art and Soul


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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June 1997

On Pins and Needles

by Walter Armstrong and Ronnilyn Pustil

Syringe-swap in showdown with city

A red-tape one-two punch downed a needle exchange in Cleveland, Ohio, but Ken Vail, 38, says his street fleet’s not out. City officials stopped the syringe swap run by the Xchange Point, a harm-reduction program that opened last September and, in three months, handed out 12,000 condoms and 800 bleach kits, and traded 931 used needles for clean ones. “After many frustrating negotiations with the city, we decided to begin operating the exchange without approval in October,” said founding director Vail. “I couldn’t stand by and withhold a tool that could save lives.”

Following an editorial against Vail’s needle exchange last December in The Plain Dealer, city officials pounced, alleging that the swap didn’t comply with the city’s 1995 emergency-order needle-distribution regs. A month after Vail complied, officials revised the order to keep needles nixed. Now Cleveland exchanges can be launched only by medical facilities at least five years old. The Xchange Point is non-medical. After his staff threatened with arrest, Vail stopped swapping syringes, leaving Cleveland with only one exchange.

In a letter to the Cleveland health department, Dr. Peter Lurie, an expert who supervises the Xchange program, wrote: “The changes in the emergency order are transparent attempts to preclude the Xchange Point from operating. Were these requirements implemented nationally, practically all exchanges in the country would have to shut down.”

At presstime, after Vail had filed an injunction to lift the block, the city tentatively OK’d his needle giveaway. And in an extraordinary reversal, The Plain Dealer ran an editorial in support of exchanges. As Vail said, “It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

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