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N.Y. scraps drug-user needle plan

NEW YORK - Mayor David Dinkins will scrap New York's needle-exchange program for drug abusers, officials said Tuesday. The decision abandons an AIDS-prevention study that provoked bitter debate and did not draw enough participants to test its scientific premise.

Dinkins has always opposed the plan, which was begun under Mayor Edward Koch in 1988 over the strong objections of many black and Hispanic officials, and he said in his mayoral campaign that he would end it.

Koch himself approached the project with some reluctance, but said it was worth trying.

The pilot program was the first government-sponsored exchange in the nation, and remained the only one until a program began in Portland, Ore., about three months ago.

It was intended as a first step in determining whether the spread of the AIDS virus could be reduced by providing clean needles to intravenous drug users who transmit the virus by sharing needles.

But the plan immediately ran into a political thicket, with one city councilman comparing it to genocide of black and Hispanic people, who are a majority of the city's drug abusers.

City officials said the program had had the side benefit of encouraging about half the addicts who came for needles to enroll in drug treatment, which, they said, some might otherwise not have done.