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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AIDS Activists Cheer End to Ban on Needle Exchange Funding

AIDS Activists Cheer End to Ban on Needle Exchange Funding
For years, needle exchange programs in three dozen states have provided clean needles to intravenous drug users as a way to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. But the programs have relied solely on state and local funding because of a longtime ban at the federal level, where some have regarded needle exchange as an incentive for drug addicts to continue to use.

"People have been afraid that this is going to conflict with some sort of zero tolerance policy," says Bill McColl, who is with the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group AIDS Action. He says the vote to lift the ban is a vote for science over outdated stereotypes.

"There are eight federal reports that show that syringe exchange will decrease HIV and Hepatitis," he says. "It doesn't increase substance abuse. You know, this is a real opportunity to do some serious outreach to a population that is often overlooked."

In some places, such as Maine, needle exchange rates have been on the rise. At the Eastern Maine AIDS Network, for example, about 4,000 dirty needles are swapped out for clean ones every month. Just three years ago, only 300 clean needles were given out monthly.

Observers credit a new director with effective outreach. But Maine has also had an increase in IV drug use. And Andrew Bossie of the Maine AIDS Alliance says that's why federal funding for needle exchange is so important -- as many as 12 percent of people being infected with HIV are getting infected by injecting drugs.

"So we're really very happy that the U.S. House and Senate have lifted this ban and that we're on our way to more sound policies that prevent the spread of HIV."

Though it's a rural state, Maine has four needle exchange programs which Bossie says are all facing funding problems. Around the country there are about 200. President Obama has previously expressed support for liftting the ban on federal funding of needle exchange as a way to reduce rates of infection.

And while his expected signing of the bill later this month won't guarantee programs get additional funding, activists say it could give more options to those affected by state and local budget cuts.

2 comments:

dsinla said...

View the new documentary "House of Numbers" to see why questions about this must be raised and deeper issues about HIV and AIDS need to be discussed. Lives are at risk, and this is the first documentary with the worlds foremost authorities highlights the scientific problems with HIV testing, science, statistics, and why there is no cure. It sheds new light on a misunderstood phenomena. GO to http://houseofnumbers.com/ to see the trailer.

petrenkov said...

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Sincerely yours
Darek Wish