January 9, 2012
Recently signed legislation to fund U.S. government operations for 2012 includes a provision that reinstates the ban on using federal funds for needle-exchange programs (NEPs). The decades-long ban had been reversed in 2009, when President Barack Obama signed a Democratic-sponsored measure into law.
In San Francisco, the ban's reinstatement will have no immediate effect. Using city and private funds, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation leads a group of contractors that distribute about 2.5 million sterile needles annually.
San Francisco spent $1.2 million on NEPs in 2010, foregoing available federal funds as unstable due to "the volatile economic and political climate," said Israel Nieves-Rivera, a program director with the city Department of Public Health. However, the lack of federal funding combined with state AIDS cuts in 2009 will prevent counties from expanding their NEPs to reach those in need, he said.
The Marin AIDS Project was planning to use a $28,500 CDC grant for 2012 to resume NEPs serving West and South Marin and Novato, which had ended due to the state cuts. The new federal restrictions mean the money can be used only for AIDS education and HIV testing, not needle distribution, said Jennifer Malone, MAP's director.
Republican congressional negotiators also secured a continued ban on federal and local funding of abortions for low-income women in Washington, D.C.
The legislation was "the product of a tough negotiation," said Adam Abrams, a White House spokesperson. "To reach a compromise, we had to accept certain provisions that we oppose, and these are two of them."