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Press Release

32 Activists Arrested Protesting the Ban on U.S. Federal Funding Syringe Exchange Programs

As Part of a National Day of Action, AIDS Activists Demand Congress Lifts Federal Funding Ban on Syringe Exchange (Again)

March 21, 2012

32 AIDS and harm reduction activists were arrested this morning after holding in sit-in protests in four US Representatives offices, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) for their role in re-instating the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs last December. Activists entered the offices of Boehner, Rehberg, Rogers, and Cantor chanting and carrying signs that read "Syringe Exchange: A Fix for AIDS" before they were arrested. This demonstration was just one of dozens that took place around the country today as a way to pressure congress to remove the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange once and for all. To read tweets from around the country today, follow the hashtag #321syringe.

"Our government should be embarrassed as this year's host of the International AIDS Conference to have sneaked this into an unrelated bill under the cloak of night last December" said Charles King, CEO of Housing Works, Inc. "The US cannot be any shining example to the rest of the world on how to end the AIDS epidemic when we're still fighting foolish policies that reject what we know works."

In December, Congress reinstated the ban as part of a spending bill it passed to fund the federal government through fiscal year 2012, which ends September 30, 2012. The ban on federal funding for syringe exchange was originally adopted in 1989 but was finally lifted in 2009 by Congress. Without a discussion or a fight, the language was slipped into the spending bill by GOP Senators, and was not fought against.

An overwhelming consensus of research proves that providing clean syringes to injection drug users is a highly effective way to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, and is credited with reducing the rate of new HIV infections among injection drug users by 80%. Additional research shows that syringe exchange programs do not increase the numbers of injection drug users, and reduces long term health care costs that occur with the medical needs of people with HIV and/or Hepatitis C.

Many of the groups participating in today's action are organizing under the banner of the We Can End AIDS Coalition, which is planning a massive mobilization in DC on July 24th.

The latest study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that while overall new HIV infections through intravenous drug use have fallen by half over the last decade, one-third of IDUs say they share needles. Ramping up funding for syringe exchange programs makes more sense now than ever.

The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) studies of syringe exchange programs in the US:

To see the list of cities participating in the Syringe Exchange Day of Action, visit:

To find out more about the We Can End AIDS Coalition, visit:

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This article was provided by Housing Works. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
Needle Exchange & HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

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