Pubdate: Thu, 15 Oct 1998
Date: 10/15/1998
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Author: Neil Willenson
Note: Neil Willenson is Founder of Camp Heartland, Headline by MAP

As founder of Camp Heartland, the largest camping and care program for
children affected by HIV and AIDS, I have met more than 1,000 kids who
are touched by this disease. Along the way, I have witnessed their
incredible determination, endurance and courage in their fight to stay

Sadly, we have lost 28 of our campers to AIDS. I am tired of burying
children. I am tired of watching people suffer the painful symptoms of
a disease that is now totally preventable. As a moral society, we must
do everything in our power to halt the transmission of HIV. This
includes supporting needle exchange programs.

Many of our campers were infected with HIV from their mothers during
birth or pregnancy. Some of these women were infected as a result of
their own intravenous drug use or that of their partners. As a
Milwaukee county taxpayer and as someone who does not want anyone to
suffer, I am very comfortable with my tax dollars being used for clean

Studies indicate that needle exchange programs do not increase drug
use. They do, however, drastically reduce the transmission of HIV.
When an addicted drug user is spared from HIV, generations of children
can be born HIV-free.

A number of county supervisors are debating whether to invest $100,000
of tax dollars in the LifePoint Needle Exchange Program. They should
know that by voting in favor of this, they will save dozens of
individuals the agony often associated with HIV. Could there be any
better investment of tax dollars?

Thank you, County Executive F. Thomas Ament, for supporting a sound
public policy.

Neil Willenson Founder and president Camp Heartland