December 15, 2009
San Francisco AIDS Foundation today applauded Congress for its historic decision to remove a 22-year old ban on federal funding for needle exchange from the FY10 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill. The decision marks an important turning point in the government's position on federal funding for needle exchange, which studies show reduces HIV transmission while also connecting drug users to community-based services for substance abuse and infectious disease prevention, care and treatment.
"Today was an historic day in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said Mark Cloutier, the CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "For over two decades, the ban on federal funding for needle exchange has limited our country's ability to effectively fight HIV among populations most vulnerable to infection. By removing this ban, we move one step closer to embracing science-based public health, which is the most promising way to change the course of the epidemic.
In the United States, an estimated 8,000 people are infected with HIV and 12,000 are infected with viral hepatitis via injection drug use each year. Despite the ban on federal funding, San Francisco AIDS Foundation has operated one of the nation's largest needle exchange programs since 1993, exchanging more than 2.3 million needles a year. The program, supported locally through public and private funds, operates 11 needle exchange sites a week. In addition to safer injection supplies, it offers community-based services such as HIV testing, drug treatment referrals and medical care.
"Since the introduction of needle exchange in San Francisco, we've seen rates of HIV infection among drug users drop sharply -- and stay there," said Cloutier. "Thanks to Chairman Obey, Speaker Pelosi and the bipartisan support of Senators and Representatives throughout Congress, the federal government has taken an enormous step forward towards evidence-based HIV/AIDS interventions that work."
The bill is expected to be signed by President Obama and enacted into law before December 18, 2009.