White House Budget Contradicts Obama

Press Release May 6, 2009
Media Contact

Bill Piper at (202) 669-6430 or Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384

A federal budget released today by the White House contains a ban on federal syringe exchange funding, despite the fact that the Obama Administration urged other countries in March to implement syringe exchange programs to combat the global HIV/AIDS crisis.

On the campaign trail last year, President Barack Obama said he would repeal a federal ban that prohibits states from spending their share of federal HIV/AIDS prevention money on syringe exchange programs proven to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases. Within 24 hours of President Obama taking office, the White House website was even changed to call for a repeal of the federal syringe ban.

“As many as 300,000 Americans could get HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C over the next decade if the federal syringe ban is not repealed,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “President Obama and Congress need to repeal the ban this year. There is no time to wait.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the more than 400,000 persons reported to be living with AIDS in the U.S. at the end of 2004, an estimated 30 percent of cases were related to injection drug use, either directly (sharing contaminated syringes) or indirectly (having sex with someone who used a contaminated syringe or being born to a mother who used a contaminated syringe).

Every established medical and scientific body to study the issue has concluded that syringe exchange programs are essential to reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases, including CDC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association. Eight government reports have concluded that syringe exchange programs reduce the spread of infectious diseases without increasing drug use. No reports contradict this finding.

States are prohibited, however, from using any part of their share of federal HIV/AIDS prevention money to fund syringe exchange programs.

“We’re surprised that President Obama’s budget contains the same syringe ban that President Bush supported,” said Piper. “Congress has the power to repeal the ban and President Obama should work with members of Congress to make it happen.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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