Nine Year DC Syringe Exchange Ban Overturned:
Washington, D.C. Local Funds Allowed to Support Syringe Exchange Programs
WASHINGTON, June 28, 2007 — Today, the House of Representatives passed the first Financial Services Appropriations bill that does not contain a rider forbidding Washington, D.C. from spending local government funds on District syringe exchange programs since 1998. The District, along with the rest of the nation, will continue to be forbidden from spending Federal funding on syringe exchange programs. Syringe exchanges are a method of HIV prevention which helps intravenous drug users attain clean needles in order to prevent sharing needles that are potentially infected with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis A, B or C or other bloodborne diseases.
- In 2005, Washington, DC had the highest rate of AIDS cases in the country, 128.4 per 100,000 vs. 19.7 per 100,000, nationally – nearly 1 out of every 50 residents has AIDS, and it is estimated that nearly 1 out of every 20is infected with HIV.
- In Washington, DC, injection drug use is directly responsible for 35% of the all AIDS cases and 54% of AIDS cases in women since the beginning of the epidemic.
AIDS Action commends the House of Representatives for its historic vote and particularly applauds Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Jose Serrano (D-NY) and David Obey (D-WI) for their strong leadership in removing the ban. “The Federal government certified in 1998 that syringe exchange reduces the transmission of HIV infections and does not raise the level of drug abuse,” said Ronald Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of AIDS Action. He continued, “The District of Columbia has the highest HIV rates in the entire nation and injection drug use is directly responsible for 35% of all AIDS cases in the District along with 54% of AIDS cases in women in the District since the beginning of the epidemic. District residents truly need the resources that the Washington, DC government can provide for syringe exchange.”
The House voted 216 to 208 to oppose an amendment to restore the ban on the District’s local funding. “This is an historic vote,” said Mr. Johnson. “It is the first direct House floor vote on syringe exchange issues since 2000 and the first vote to favor syringe exchange. We call on the Senate to follow suit as soon as possible and ensure that Washington, D.C. is able to join almost every other major city in this country in supporting locally funded syringe exchange programs. This vote is a tremendous victory. Hopefully it will eventually lead to lower HIV rates among intravenous drug users in the city,” he said.
AIDS Action Council is the longest-serving national HIV/AIDS advocacy organization. It serves as a national voice for its members—community-based organizations, local health departments and clinics, treatment and prevention service providers, and health educators by advocating for effective legislative and social policies and programs for HIV prevention, treatment, and care.