Public health advocates held an understandably muted celebration when President Obama signed a bill repealing a 21-year-old ban on federal financing for programs that supply clean needles to drug addicts.
The bill brought an end to a long and bitter struggle between the public health establishment — which knew from the beginning that the ban would cost lives — and ideologues in Congress who had closed their eyes to studies showing that making clean needles available to addicts slowed the rate of infection from H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, without increasing drug use.
But the shift in policy comes too late for the tens of thousands of Americans — drug addicts and their spouses, lovers and unborn children — who have died from AIDS and AIDS-related diseases. Many of these people would not have become infected had Congress followed sound medical advice and embraced the use of clean needles.
What will future generations think when they look back at policies based on ideology and think of this generation? I and my colleagues fight this battle constantly - ideology versus fact. Crime control policies are infested with ideological decisions. And many cost lives and dollars, just like clean needle exchange programs.
Sometimes I wonder why we bother teaching math and science in K-12 and beyond when so much of American society still supports policies that end up doing more harm than good, despite the evidence.