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Senate Needle Exchange Vote Plays Shell Game with Children’s Health

AIDS Action’s Zingale: “The Senate to our kids: Don’t smoke. Do get HIV.’”

June 9, 1998

Contact: or call: 202- 986-1300

Washington, D.C. -- AIDS Action today condemned a moment of tragic Washington hypocrisy as the Senate passed a children’s AIDS acceleration amendment to a tobacco bill designed to reduce smoking related disease among young people. Senate passage today of a permanent ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs will increase HIV infection among drugs users, their sex partners and their children.

“The Senate to our kids: ‘Don’t smoke. Do get HIV’,” said Daniel Zingale, AIDS Action’s executive director. “The Senate is playing a tragic shell game with the health of America’s children. Until we win the war on drugs, we must take AIDS out of the battle plan.”

The Senate vote of 52-46 on the Coverdell amendment to S.1415, the tobacco bill, included a provision that would codify current federal regulations barring the use of federal funds for community-based needle-exchange programs. The Senate rejected, by a vote of 45-53, a substitute provision offered by Senator Tom Daschle that would have imposed a one-year moratorium on needle exchanges.

The House passed a permanent needle exchange ban on April 29 by a vote of 287-140. Every leading federal scientist, the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of Health, the American Public Health Association and the Clinton Administration have determined that needle exchange programs reduce HIV infection without increasing drug use.

Maintaining the current needle exchange ban railroads America’s most vulnerable men, women and children on a fast track to AIDS. Our failure to get dirty needles off our streets increases the HIV infection rate among those most likely to depend on Medicaid for health care access. Ironically, Medicaid does not provide treatment for HIV infection until a beneficiary develops full-blown AIDS, when treatment is less successful and more expensive.

“This is double jeopardy for some of America’s most vulnerable families,” added Zingale. “First, the Senate threatens the best HIV prevention program for America’s most vulnerable families, then it denies access to the only proven prevention from full-blown AIDS.”

AIDS Action supports a renewed and effective war on drugs that includes enhanced substance abuse treatment programs so that all drug users have access to care that helps them end their addiction. “A genuine war on drugs means a renewed effort for treatment that helps drug users end their addiction,” added David Wexler, chair of AIDS Action Council Board.

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.
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