Federal Budget Deal Stalls Reinstating Federal Funding for Syringe Exchange Programs
August 13, 2012
In a frustrating move that will continue to stall the progress of fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States, it was quietly announced last week that congressional leaders reached a half-year deal on the federal budget, all but squashing the possibility of redirecting federal funding for syringe exchange programs until 2013.
As we all know, syringe exchange programs have been shown to greatly reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS among ID users, yet they are frequently and erroneously villainized as promoting drug use instead of being touted as a cost-effective, preventative health measure in the fight against HIV/AIDS. According to the CDC, injection drug users account for 15% new HIV infections per year.
Currently there are 221 syringe exchange programs across 33 states, many of which offer additional services, such as HIV testing and counseling, free condoms, and important linkages with other physical and mental health programs and services. What's more, according to a recent study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, providing a safe place for needle exchanges can greatly reduce the discarding of needles in unsafe places, such as parks, beaches, alleyways, and even overgrown bushes.
In Miami, for instance, where it is illegal to give people a syringe when it is likely they will use it for injecting drugs, this not only creates a precarious legal loophole around the idea of "likelihood," but also can serve as motivation to get rid of the needle as quick as possible, which ID user Andrea E. Larabee says can account for the poorly discarded needles.
According to a recent PBS article, the Representatives who were instrumental in having the federal funding ban on syringe exchange programs lifted in 2009 -- José E. Serrano (D-NY); Henry Waxman (D-CA); Barbara Lee (D-CA); and Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) -- will probably not press the issue again until the House is controlled by Democrats. This vague answer leaves it uncertain when federal funds will again be used to aid syringe exchange programs across the country, and until this preliminary budget expires in March 2013, the AIDS community and its needs will be pushed to the wayside.
Federal Funding for Syringe Services Programs: Saving Money, Promoting Public Safety and Improving Public Health
This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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