EDITORIAL: Delegate Norton’s partisan public health policy

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

Washington’s HIV/AIDS infection rate is triple the national average and as high as in some West African nations. According to D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, that’s not reason for introspection among District residents; it is reason to shift blame to Republicans.

In a letter posted on her Web site last week, Mrs. Norton claims the infection rate is “in large part” because the Republicans blocked the city from spending local money on needle-exchange programs when they controlled Congress, “at the cost of many lives and illness caused by the spread of the virus.” The partisan attack reveals ignorance of basic political realities as well as the dynamics of the spreading epidemic.

Democrats removed the needle-exchange ban after taking control of the House more than two years ago, Mrs. Norton acknowledges in her tirade, and Republicans are powerless to reinstitute the ban.

Blasting Republicans for something they can’t do seems beside the point when public health authorities report the District’s epidemic has other sources. Injection-drug use is just the third-leading cause of transmission in the District, behind homosexual sex and heterosexual encounters.

Mrs. Norton also ignores the significant role personal responsibility plays in spreading the illness. About half of D.C. residents connected to areas with the highest poverty and infection rates reported having overlapping sexual relationships with different partners in the previous year, according to a March study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the George Washington University School of Health and Health Services.

Among those surveyed, seven in 10 reported not protecting themselves or their partners by using a condom during their most recent encounter. Just three in five could even say whether they had the disease. Having multiple partners and unprotected intercourse increases the chances of spreading the disease.

At root, Mrs. Norton is trying to avoid uncomfortable facts and replace them with a politically convenient fantasy. She isn’t really upset about Republicans’ long-dismantled needle-exchange policy. She wants to squelch calls by Republicans to investigate the District’s AIDS rate and continued questionable city spending. If Mrs. Norton really cares about AIDS, she should be encouraging efforts to address the District’s AIDS problem - based on public health reality - instead of trying to protect her political turf.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts