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Corona church gets OK for needle exchange site

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In April the board approved the concept of a needle exchange program in the district, pending the selection of a site.The approval of the church location at 109-20 34th Ave. makes Corona the fifth needle exchange program approved by a Queens community board in the last year. Three of those are running, one in Long Island City and two in Jamaica, said AIDS Center of Queens County Executive Director Philip Glotzer. The application for a fourth in Far Rockaway is being reviewed by the state Department of Health.Rev. Gilbert Pickett Sr., pastor of Mt. Horeb, said his church was responding to a meeting a year ago of the Corona East Elmhurst Clergy Association at which the ACQC "enlightened us." He said in May the church officially agreed to host the site, which will be run Friday evenings from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., by the AIDS Center."We have an HIV/AIDS crisis that is rampant in our society, especially amongst people of color," he said Monday.There were no needle exchange programs in the borough before ACQC began its work, according to Glotzer, who said the politics of needle exchange makes site selection difficult. He said Mayor Michael Bloomberg was more supportive of the program than former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.Despite the difficulties, Glotzer said the results are cost-effective."The cost for five [site] programs is about $300,000, but each case of HIV/AIDS costs about $150,000 over a patient's lifetime, so if you prevent two cases, then you are being cost-effective," he said, noting that half of all new AIDS cases in New York City are from infected needles.Corona resident David Steele agreed that the neighborhood needed such a program."Anything that helps stop the progress of AIDS is an excellent idea. Anything we can do to diffuse it," he said Tuesday, on his way to work near the church.Reach reporter Adam Pincus by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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