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Sunday, February 27, 2005

And Still They Practice Junk Science

According to an editorial in today's Washington Post, not only is the Bush administration ignoring the overwhelming preponderance of evidence that needle exchange programs prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs, but it is deliberately distorting the conclusions of some scientific studies. In order to support its own opposition to these programs, this administration is cooking the books, so to speak. The studies being used to prop up its own views actually contradicts the assessment that needle exchange programs encourage greater drug use and are ineffective in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDs. Instead, this research demonstrates that these programs are our best shot at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially in Asian countries and they do not encourage more drug use either.

As the Post's editorial points out, the authors of the research being misquoted by the administration actually support needle exchange programs and are baffled that their work is being used to support conclusions they don't hold. Here's the money quote:

"The administration claims that the evidence for the effectiveness of needle exchange is shaky. An official who requested anonymity directed us to a number of researchers who have allegedly cast doubt on the pro-exchange consensus. One of them is Steffanie A. Strathdee of the University of California at San Diego; when we contacted her, she responded that her research "supports the expansion of needle exchange programs, not the opposite." Another researcher cited by the administration is Martin T. Schechter of the University of British Columbia; he wrote us that "Our research here in Vancouver has been repeatedly used to cast doubt on needle exchange programs. I believe this is a clear misinterpretation of the facts." Yet a third researcher cited by the administration is Julie Bruneau at the University of Montreal; she told us that "in the vast majority of cases needle exchange programs drive HIV incidence lower." We asked Dr. Bruneau whether she favored needle exchanges in countries such as Russia or Thailand. "Yes, sure," she responded."

Once again, the Bush administration, and it's rightwing allies in Congress, are proving that ideology trumps facts and that they don't respect genuine science.