Bleach may not always kill AIDS virus

June 03, 1993|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- Bleach is not nearly as effective in killing the AIDS virus on shared needles as drug addicts have been taught, federal researchers have decided.

And for the first time, federal officials suggest that addicts should have easier access to clean needles over the counter or in needle exchanges, said Dr. Harry Haverkos of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The conclusion -- reached in February but just now making its way to many front-line groups who work with addicts -- is a blow to conventional AIDS outreach among drug users and a boost for more controversial efforts to provide new, sterile needles. Several new, grim reports about bleach will be presented next week in Berlin at the Ninth International Conference on AIDS.

"When people first started using bleach, there was a sense that bleach ought to be almost as good as having your own equipment," said Don C. Des Jarlais, a New York researcher who is the drug abuse expert on the National Commission on AIDS. "The accumulated evidence is that it really is not close at all."

Data from New York City and Baltimore indicate that addicts who report using bleach are just as likely to become infected as those who do not, he said.

The conclusions were reached at a meeting in February at the Johns Hopkins University and are summarized in an April bulletin by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Although federal officials said more research is needed, provisional recommendations in the bulletin suggest that the longer bleach is in the syringe, the more likely the human immunodeficiency virus will be killed. A minimum of 30 seconds is recommended.

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