Naomi Long at (202) 669-6071 or Grant Smith at (202) 669-6573</p>
Today the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment that would have restored a ban that prohibits the nation's capital from spending its own (non-federal) money on syringe exchange programs. The ban was eliminated weeks ago in committee. Congressman Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) tried to reinstitute a modified ban on the floor that would have had a chilling effect on the existing needle exchange program in D.C. (which currently operates entirely on private funds), but the House rejected it 216 Nays to 208 Yeas.
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. The Drug Policy Alliance applauds Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), who chairs the Financial Services Subcommittee, for spearheading the effort to lift the ban, and recognizes the tireless efforts of D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
"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. at a time when the District is suffering from a HIV/AIDS crisis."
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.