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Evidence Mounting on Effectiveness of Syringe Exchange as Means of Saving Lives of Drug Users and Their Families

February 18, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. - AIDS Action Council, the nation's leading AIDS advocacy organization, today called on President Clinton and the 105th Congress to heed the results of two federal reports released within the last week which indicate that syringe exchange programs are an effective means of curbing HIV infection among intravenous drug users and their families.

A Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report released today reviews the compelling body of research that demonstrates that syringe exchange programs do reduce HIV transmission among intravenous drug users, their sexual partners, and their children. Additionally, the report shows there is little compelling evidence that syringe exchange programs encourage drug use. The HHS report comes on the heels of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus panel conclusion last week that syringe exchange programs can and should play an important role in HIV prevention.

Unfortunately, while over a third of reported adult AIDS cases and over half of all AIDS cases among children are related to injection drug use, a ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs and statements made by elected officials on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue questioning the efficacy of these programs have sent a chilling message to communities which might consider funding needle exchange programs. The demagoguery around this critical issue in the United States stands in stark contrast to the way in which other countries have successfully used syringe exchange programs to prevent HIV infection among intravenous drug users and their families.

"The HHS and NIH syringe exchange reports are an important first step in our collective efforts to save the lives of drug users and their families who are vulnerable to HIV infection," said Daniel Zingale, AIDS Action Council's executive director. "As these two reports and one released last year by the prestigious Institute of Medicine indicate, we must prioritize science and the public health above moralism and timid politics. Dramatic increases in federal, state and local funding for drug treatment are also urgently needed."

Zingale said AIDS Action Council will work aggressively with the Clinton administration and congressional leaders to emphasize the effectiveness of syringe exchange programs and eliminate barriers to federal funding for them. "Too many lives are at stake to waste a minute more on this issue," Zingale added.

For more information, contact:
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, extension 3053
202-986-1345 (fax)
202-332-9614 (tty)

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.