|AIDS Action Applauds the House of Representatives on Ending the Syringe Exchange Federal Funding Ban. Historic Moment in HIV Prevention: AIDS Action Council applauds Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, the members of the Labor Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee and the House of Representatives on removing the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs (SEPs) from the Fiscal Year 2010 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. “This is an important and long overdue change in the prevention of HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis,” said Executive Director, Rebecca Haag. “This historic vote is the first time in 20 years that the federal government is on the verge of recognizing syringe exchange as an important, evidence-based tool in HIV prevention and the House is to be commended.” More than 8,000 people directly or indirectly are infected by HIV and another 12,000 people are directly or indirectly infected by hepatitis through injection drug use.
Syringe exchange programs are one of our most effective means of preventing HIV and viral hepatitis infections. SEPs are cost-effective, serve as a bridge to health care services for hard-to-reach populations, protect communities and law enforcement officials, and provide access to substance abuse treatment for injection drug users. Removal of the ban provides communities the freedom to use their federal HIV and hepatitis prevention funds on strategies that best fit their local needs, including syringe exchange programs.
AIDS Action Council applauds the House of Representatives for empowering communities and allowing them to arm themselves with all the tools necessary to fight their local epidemics. Today’s decision in the House to remove the ban opens the way for the Administration to ensure that this targeted prevention technique is available here in the U.S. and U.S. funded programs abroad.
“One concern that we have is today’s vote left intact a provision in the bill that seeks to restrict federal funding to syringe exchange programs (SEPs) that operate at least 1,000 ft. away from day care centers, schools, universities, public pools, parks, playgrounds, video arcades or youth centers or an event sponsored by these organizations,” said Deputy Executive Director Ronald Johnson. “These restrictions cover everywhere; they will make it all but impossible for SEPs to receive federal funding in urban areas where they are perhaps most needed,” he said. He added, “We call on the Senate and House to remove these restrictions as well.”
“The diligent work of Chairman David R. Obey (D-WI) and other Appropriations Committee members on this issue finally came to fruition today,” said Johnson. “AIDS Action thanks all the members of House who voted to end the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs.”