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Press Release

President Bush Signs Omnibus Bill Including $300,000 for GMHC Crystal Meth Prevention

Bill Also Advances Syringe Exchange, Comprehensive Sex Education

December 28, 2007

New York, NY -- Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), the world's oldest HIV/AIDS organization, has been awarded $303,150 in the Federal Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill to fund a comprehensive program combating the growing role of crystal methamphetamine use in the HIV/AIDS epidemic on a national level. The appropriation, signed by President Bush on December 26, was sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

"We are deeply grateful to Senators Schumer and Clinton for their hard work to ensure this appropriations bill passed," said Dr. Marjorie J. Hill, GMHC's Chief Executive Officer. "Their leadership in addressing the rising rates of crystal meth use will help us prevent further HIV/AIDS infections."

Studies have shown rising rates of crystal meth use among gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) over the last few years. Various studies show a clear link between crystal meth use and unsafe sex. In a 2004 study conducted by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) and the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), crystal meth users were more than twice as likely to be HIV infected, nearly twice as likely to contract gonorrhea, and five times as likely as non-crystal users to be diagnosed with syphilis. Further, though crystal meth is most commonly smoked, injection use is on the rise. This is disturbing because of the increased potential for HIV transmission through shared needles.

GMHC views its first-ever federal appropriation as a unique and unprecedented opportunity in the agency's work to reach out to individuals who are struggling with crystal meth use and provide them with the information and tools to help them prevent becoming infected with HIV and other STIs.

"HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men in the United States are up 13% since 2001. In New York City, infections among young MSM are up by one third. Crystal meth is one factor fueling this rise in HIV infections among gay men," said Janet Weinberg, Senior Managing Director of Development and Legislative Funding. "This funding will allow us to warn people of the risks of crystal meth before they start using and to get users into treatment."

The omnibus spending bill was also historic in that it advanced several key aspects of evidence-based prevention policy -- syringe exchange and comprehensive sex education. Specifically, the omnibus bill:

  • Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx), removed restrictive language preventing the District of Columbia from using local funds to fund syringe exchange. However, language preventing the use of federal funds for syringe exchange remains in the bill. Syringe exchange is among the most effective prevention tools; in New York State HIV infections among intravenous drug users dropped 78% from 1990 to 2002, a period of significant expansion in syringe exchange here. The District of Columbia has the highest HIV rate of any municipality in the country; one in 50 residents has HIV or AIDS.
  • Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester), removed restrictive language mandating that one-third of foreign HIV prevention dollars be spent on abstinence-only-until-marriage education. Such programs are ineffective in places like Africa, where the bulk of the funds are spent. In Africa many infections occur between married spouses. In addition, gender inequality makes it hard for women and girls to "just say no" to unwanted sexual advances.
  • Cut a $28 million increase in funding for domestic abstinence-only-until-marriage education. Study after study, including many commissioned by the federal government, have found abstinence-only to be ineffective and full of inaccurate misinformation. In addition, abstinence-only curricula promote anti-gay bias and sexist gender stereotypes. The omnibus bill flat-funded domestic abstinence-only at $176 million for Fiscal Year 2008.

"We're disappointed that this omnibus bill still contains millions for harmful and ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage education and still contains the restriction banning the use of federal funds for syringe exchange," said Sean Cahill, Managing Director for Public Policy, Research and Community Health at GMHC. "However, President Bush signed a bill that allows, for the first time, the District of Columbia to spend its local funds for syringe exchange. He signed a bill that removed abstinence-only restrictions in foreign HIV prevention and flat-funded abstinence-only domestically. These are significant advances that we celebrate and welcome."

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This article was provided by Gay Men's Health Crisis. Visit GMHC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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