Foundation Praises Congressional Action to Lift Syringe Exchange Funding Ban

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation applauds today’s decision by a House subcommittee to lift the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs and encourages the Appropriations Committee as well as the full House and Senate to grant final approval for supporting this critical weapon in the fight against AIDS.

Today’s action, taken during approval of the fiscal year 2010 spending bill for labor, health and education programs by the House Appropriations subcommittee, is an important first step in removing the ban that has been in place since 1988.

“Scientific studies have documented that needle exchange programs, when implemented as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention for reducing AIDS/HIV infections and do not promote drug use,” said U.S. Rep. David Obey, chair of both the appropriations subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee. “The judgment we make in this bill is that it is time to lift this ban and let State and local jurisdictions determine if they want to pursue this approach.”

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation, which operates one of the largest syringe access programs in the United States, has been working closely with national leaders to lift the ban. The Foundation’s program provides safe injection supplies as well as access to HIV testing, drug treatment referrals and medical care.

“There is broad scientific consensus that providing clean syringes to intravenous drug users significantly reduces new HIV infections while also providing a bridge to drug treatment and other health services,” said Mark Cloutier, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “With the support of Congress, federal funding for syringe exchange will play an important role in a comprehensive national strategy to fight AIDS.”

In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control concluded that HIV infection among injection drug users had declined by 80 percent in the United States, due in part to needle exchange programs funded privately or with state or local monies.

Injection drug users represent 20 percent of the more than 1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States and the majority of the 3.2 million Americans living with hepatitis C.
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation provides leadership to prevent new HIV infections. Linking community experience with science, the Foundation develops ground-breaking prevention programs and bold policy initiatives to promote health and create sustainable progress against HIV. Established in 1982, the Foundation refuses to accept that HIV transmission is inevitable.

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