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AIDS Action Council Applauds Removal of Ban on Federal Funding for Syringe Exchange Programs

Posted Jul 10 2009 10:15pm

AIDS Action Council   AIDS Action Council commends Chairman David R. Obey (D-WI) and the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations sub-committee members on removing the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs from the Labor, Health and Human Services FY 2010 Appropriations bill. In Chairman Obey’s prepared remarks he stated, “This bill deletes the prohibition on the use of funds for needle exchange programs. Scientific studies have documented that needle exchange programs, when implemented as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention for reducing AIDS/HIV infections and do not promote drug use.  The judgment we make is that it is time to lift this ban and let State and local jurisdictions determine if they want to pursue this approach.”

“Chairman Obey is right,” stated Ronald Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of AIDS Action Council, “the number of individuals who have become HIV positive through injection drug use has been drastically HIV reduced by syringe exchange programs operating with private, state and local funding. We look forward to expanding the reach with the federal resources.”

Syringe exchange programs are cost-effective, prevent disease, serve as a bridge to health care services for hard-to-reach populations, protect communities and law enforcement officials, and provide a gateway to substance abuse treatment for injection drug users. Removal of the ban empowers communities by giving them the freedom to use their federal funds for HIV prevention strategies that best fit their local needs, including syringe exchange programs.

Since 1989, Congress has prevented the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs (SEPs), using the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill and other legal provisions as a means for carrying out the prohibition. AIDS Action Council applauds the Labor, Health and Human Services sub-committee for this historic action, which puts to rest the practice of ignoring calls from leaders in the scientific, humanitarian, and medical communities to end the ban. Mr. Johnson continued, “We call on the House Appropriations full committee to keep this important change in tact. Local jurisdictions know how to best work in their communities.”

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