California Governor Signs 'Clean Needle' Bill

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - One of the nation's largest homosexual advocacy groups is praising Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for signing a "clean needle" bill into law in California.

The new law means California pharmacies may now sell up to ten clean syringes without a prescription.

HRC President Cheryl Jacques said Gov. Schwarzenegger is putting science first: "Giving people access to clean needles will curb the number of new HIV and hepatitis infections," she said in a press release. "Members of Congress who have time and again rejected needle exchange programs should take this new measure to heart," Jacques added.

In a message to Californians, Schwarzenegger said that sharing contaminated needles and syringes has taken a toll on public health: "My administration supports this measure because it will prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases among injection drug users, their sexual partners and their children."

Former Gov. Gray Davis vetoed similar legislation, agreeing with critics, including law-enforcement groups, that a clean-needle bill would condone and encourage drug abuse, leading to more crime.

The Human Rights Campaign says it would like to see other counties and cities follow California's lead in making clean needles more readily available to drug abusers.

Supporters of the bill note that California is one of only five states that require a prescription in order to purchase a syringe. They say such "over-regulation" forces drug abusers to re-use and share needles, contributing to California's high rate of HIV/AIDS.