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Thursday, May 30
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion oped editorial

COLUMN: Needle exchange faces abuse

ILLO: Needle exchange

EDITOR'S NOTE

My name is Hannah Alani and I’m the editor-in-chief of the Indiana Daily Student. I have received many impassioned messages and emails regarding this IDS editorial, ”Needle exchange faces abuse." 

Wednesday evening the IDS editors changed the description of the piece from "editorial" to "column," which better reflects the content of the publication.  

Our opinion staff collectively decides on topics for daily editorials. The managing editors of news do read them and we instruct writers to cite sources and clarify their reporting. However, the managing editors do not exercise editorial control over the opinions expressed in a column or editorial. The news editors play no part in writing or crafting columns or editorials. Sometimes columns and editorials do not reflect the opinions of the news staff and, in the case of this opinion, present arguments that run counter with the interviews and data reported in the news pages of the IDS. 

When a column or editorial does not present a strong argument or leaves out key elements of an issue, we make suggestions to the opinion editors. However, if the piece is fact-checked, the news editors do not censor opinions. 

I can see that the opinions reflected in this piece do not match the opinions of many community and campus stakeholders. We welcome anyone to write a letter to the editor, which would run in the opinion section. This may be especially beneficial if our opinion staff is misrepresenting or misunderstanding the work of public health researchers and workers. If this is something you are interested in, please contact opinion editors Dylan Moore and Zack Chambers at opinion@idsnews.com.

The IDS news staff has not been ignoring the opioid epidemic. In fact, we’ve been following it for some time. Our coverage includes but is not limited to:

http://specials.idsnews.com/untreated/

http://www.idsnews.com/article/2016/02/needle-exchange-fights-stigma-against-drug-users-hiv-outbreak

http://www.idsnews.com/article/2016/11/congress-urged-to-address-opioid-and-heroin-abuse-treatment-funding

http://www.idsnews.com/article/2016/02/ira-to-have-syringe-exchange-program

http://www.idsnews.com/article/2015/03/pence-will-declare-state-of-emergency-over-hiv-outbreak

http://www.idsnews.com/article/2015/03/indiana-hiv-outbreak-caused-by-drugs

http://www.idsnews.com/article/2015/04/public-health-emergency-extended-in-scott-county

http://www.idsnews.com/article/2015/12/needle-exchange-approved-in-monroe-county

As the news staff continues to report on needle exchanges and the opioid crisis I would appreciate your continued feedback. And if you are willing to be a resource for us — as someone who can offer story ideas or as someone we can interview — please let me know.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for reaching out. The IDS is a daily news outlet, but it is also — first and foremost — a learning lab for aspiring journalists. We do not learn and we do not get better without reader feedback.

*This note was updated 9:00 p.m. Wednesday to include and explain the decision to change the naming of this piece from an "editorial" to a "column."


Many politicians and agencies contend that needle exchanges are a worthwhile investment to decrease the spread of HIV. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health have stated the needle exchange programs have a significant effect on the reduction of HIV cases.

While there are certainly many pros to needle exchanges, the programs can be abused.

Early in 2015 a needle exchange, along with immunizations and counseling referrals, was set up in Austin, Indiana, to respond to the record number of HIV cases showing up in Austin’s health centers. A center was put in place that tested for HIV, helped those infected reduce their viral load and traded current users clean needles for their used ones.

A member of the Editorial Board rode along with IU journalism student Emily Jones to do a piece on Austin. During an interview with a local pizza restaurant employee who was also a recovered addict, the needle exchange was painted in a very different light.

The local, who requested anonymity, claimed fewer people were being diagnosed with HIV because many people were dying before they could come in to the health center.

He also said the clean needles were often not used by those they were given to but rather being sold to buy more heroin, which was then injected through used needles.

Before showing our board member houses where many of the addicts were, he said 60 members of his graduating class had died in the 15 years since he had graduated, most from heroin-related causes.

These are just the claims of one man, but because of them the Editorial Board believes great caution should be taken during the implementation of needle exchanges. Some politicians, like Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, agree more parameters to be set on needle exchanges.

The needle exchange program, like any system, has potential vulnerabilities and places where it can be abused. Systems, however, that deal with something as serious as drug addiction must be implemented with greater caution and more care than most systems.

Because of the stories of the events in Austin, the Editorial Board wants Indiana to make needle exchange systems more accessible to cities, but also to implement more requirements for those systems.

The potential abuses for these systems are scary and could wreck havoc among the Hoosier population.

CORRECTION An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated 80 percent of the people diagnosed with HIV are virally suppressed. The IDS regrets this error. 

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