Naomi Long at (202) 669-6071 or Bill Piper at (202) 669-6430
Today Congress moved to lift the funding ban on syringe exchange programs in Washington, DC. The House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government removed the ban from an appropriations bill that includes the city’s spending plan.
In 1998, the Republican-led Congress barred the District Government from spending its own local funds on syringe exchange programs. The ban has been reauthorized in the appropriations bill every year since. But with Democrats now in power, the push to lift the ban gained traction. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), who chairs the committee, spearheaded the effort to lift the ban.
“This is a huge step in helping to reduce HIV and AIDS in Washington, DC,” said Naomi Long, director of the Washington Metro office for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We are pleased that Congress decided to stop playing politics with the lives of intravenous drug users in D.C.”
It has been long established by the scientific community that needle exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS amongst people who inject drugs without increasing drug use. In Washington, DC, injecting drugs is the second-most common means of contracting HIV among men – and the most common form among women. Approximately one-third of new AIDS cases annually are the result of intravenous drug use.
Supporters of needle exchange include the American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, Centers for Disease Control and three former U.S. Surgeons General. A number of faith communities officially support needle exchange including The Presbyterian Church (USA), Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ.