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AIDS Action calls on Shalala to eliminate federal restrictions on needle exchange

Shalala urged to heed needle exchange resolution passed today by U.S. Conference of Mayors

June 24, 1997

Contact: José Zuñiga
(202) 986-1300, Ext. 3042

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- AIDS Action, the nation's foremost AIDS advocacy organization, today called on Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Donna Shalala to heed a U.S. Conference of Mayors resolution urging her to allow scientific evidence to guide policy-making around the needle exchange issue. On Monday, President Clinton told the nation's mayors that the federal government must "continue to identify sound public health strategies that enable local communities to address the twin epidemics of AIDS and substance abuse." The bipartisan resolution passed today echoes President Clinton's remarks and urges Shalala to certify that the congressionally imposed conditions to allow federal funds for needle exchange programs have been met. To date six independent, federally funded reports have indicated that needle exchange programs are an effective means of curbing HIV infection among intravenous drug users and their families.

The most recent report (released in February 1997) was a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report that reviewed the compelling body of research demonstrating that needle exchange programs reduce HIV transmission among intravenous drug users, their sexual partners, and their children. Additionally, the report indicated there is no compelling evidence that needle exchange programs encourage drug use. The HHS report came on the heels of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) consensus panel conclusion in February that needle exchange programs can and should play an important role in HIV prevention. Over a third of reported adult AIDS cases and over half of all AIDS cases among children are related to injection drug use.

AIDS Action Executive Director Daniel Zingale said a ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs and statements made by elected officials in Washington, D.C., questioning the efficacy of these programs have sent a chilling message to communities which might consider funding needle exchange programs.

"We applaud President Clinton for his comments and the U.S. Conference of Mayors for calling on Secretary Shalala to allow science to inform her decision around needle exchange. We must save the lives of all men, women and children who are vulnerable to HIV infection by removing the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs and adequately funding substance abuse prevention and treatment programs," said Zingale. "As a nation, we must prioritize science and the public health above timid politics. Too many lives are at stake to waste a minute more on this issue."

AIDS Action is the nation's foremost AIDS advocacy organization, representing people affected by HIV/AIDS and over 1,400 community-based organizations that serve them.

Contact: José Zuñiga
Director of Communications
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, extension 3042
202-986-1345 (fax)
202-332-9614 (tty)

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
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