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Take Action: National Call-In to Repeal the Federal Ban on Syringe Exchange

June 10, 2008

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

CHAMP: Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project

In an important triumph for health advocates, Congress recently lifted the ban on the use of local tax dollars for syringe exchange in Washington DC. Now is the time to end the overall federal ban on funding syringe exchange, and we need everyone's help this week.

Please join a national call-in to your Representative, asking them to demonstrate their support by signing onto a letter to House leadership. This is the first action in Congress in a decade to lift the ban, and we need to make a strong showing. The 20-year federal funding ban curtails local communities from using their prevention dollars as they see fit to support this effective intervention.

  1. Dial 1-800-828-0498 to reach the Capitol switchboard and ask to be connected to your Representative's office. (Click here if you don't know your Representative.) Ask to speak to their Health staffer.
  2. Use the suggested message and talking points below to tell the staffer your Representative should sign the bipartisan 'Dear Colleague' letter circulating by Representatives Cummings (D-MD) and Castle (R-DE).
  3. E-mail us at to let us know you made your call.

Suggested message:

Local communities should decide how best to fight the spread of HIV & Hepatitis C. Syringe exchanges are proven to help reduce HIV infection and also provide important links to drug treatment. It's time to lift the federal ban on syringe exchange funding. Will Representative [Rep Name] sign the Cummings/Castle letter?

Other key talking points:

  • Injection-related disease - One third of people with HIV in the United States were infected through injection drug use. Every year, another 8,000 people are newly infected with HIV through sharing contaminated syringes and another 15,000 are infected with Hepatitis C.
  • These infections are preventable. In communities where access to sterile syringes is supported, transmission of HIV & Hepatitis C in injecting drug users has declined as a proportion of all cases by mode of transmission. Decreases have also been documented among the sex partners and children of injection drug users.
  • Syringe Exchange programs are highly cost-effective. The lifetime cost of medical care for each new HIV infection is $385,200; the equivalent amount of money spent on syringe exchange programs would prevent at least 30 new HIV infections.
  • Syringe exchange programs increase access to drug treatment & medical care. In addition to the reduced risks for disease, sterile syringe access programs facilitate greater access to drug treatment. These programs also provide a crucial entry point into medical care, detox and rehabilitation, and mental health treatment.
  • Nearly 200 syringe exchange programs currently operate in 38 states, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, and Indian Lands. Most operate on a shoestring, surviving on dwindling private donations and severe restrictions of public funding.
  • The medical and scientific community support syringe exchange. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Academy of Sciences show that syringe exchange programs are effective. Programs have the support of the medical community, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association
  • Syringe exchanges get dirty needles off the streets. Research demonstrates that the presence of a syringe exchange program results in fewer used syringes improperly discarded. In Baltimore, after an SEP was implemented, the number of inappropriately discarded syringes decreased by almost 50%. In Portland, the number of discarded syringes decreased by almost two-thirds after the NEP opened. In 1992, Connecticut repealed a law forbidding the sale of syringes without a prescription. As a result, reports show a reduction in needle sharing by 50 percent and a decrease in HIV infections by over 30 percent. In addition, law enforcement officials experienced two-thirds fewer needle stick injuries.

Please call your representative today and urge him or her to sign on to the letter! And please don't forget to report your call to us when you're done.

Once you've reported your call, please forward this message to your friends, family, and co-workers and ask them to join you in calling.

For more information, please contact the Harm Reduction Coalition.

A note from The field of medicine is constantly evolving. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

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This article was provided by Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project.
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