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Provision in a Bill Aimed at Helping Needle Exchanges Would Hurt Most of Them

November 12, 2009

Congress is considering a bill that appears to boost needle-exchange efforts but would in fact pose a huge challenge to most of them, advocates say.

The proposed legislation would end a 20-year-ban on using federal funding for needle-exchange programs but prohibit federally funded NEPs within 1,000 feet of where children are likely to congregate -- a provision that would apply to most of the country's approximately 200 programs.

The bill "is going to kill us," said Ellis Poole, executive director of the Harm Reduction Center of Southern Oregon. The office from which he runs an NEP and an antidrug program for teenagers is less than 1,000 feet away from a high school.

NEPs represent "a critical piece of harm reduction," said Patricia A. Murphy, executive director of the Eastern Maine AIDS Network in Bangor. Her agency runs one of Maine's four NEPs, all of which would be shuttered under the 1,000-foot provision.

The legislation and a separate bill that would disallow city funding as well as federal money for Washington, D.C., NEPs in the 1,000-foot radius have been approved by the House and are awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

"Let's protect these kids," said bill sponsor Jack Kingston, (R-Ga). "They don't need to be playing kickball and seeing people lined up for needle exchange."

Advocates, including the NAACP, are asking Congress to eliminate the 1,000-foot provision.

"The 1,000-foot rule is simply instituting the ban in a different form," said Rebecca Haag, executive director of the AIDS Action Council.

About one-fifth of the nation's 1.1 million HIV cases can be traced directly or indirectly to intravenous drug use, according to CDC. There is "compelling evidence" that NEPs check the spread of HIV, the World Health Organization said in a 2004 report.

Back to other news for November 2009

Adapted from:
New York Times
11.11.2009; Katie Zezima

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
Needle Exchange & HIV/AIDS in the U.S.

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