NHPC 2015: U.S. Syringe Funding Ban Impedes HIV and Hepatitis C Prevention

Michelle Scavnicky, Bill McColl and Mary Beth Levin at NHPC 2015 (Credit: Liz Highleyman)
Michelle Scavnicky, Bill McColl and Mary Beth Levin at NHPC 2015
Liz Highleyman

Providing sterile syringes is a proven effective method for preventing HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections among people who inject drugs, yet the U.S. government continues to prohibit use of federal funds for this purpose, presenters said at the 2015 National HIV Prevention Conference (NHPC) last week in Atlanta. A federal budget bill now under consideration could lift the funding ban on syringe exchange programs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "high-impact prevention" initiative aims to target the right combinations of scientifically proven, cost-effective and scalable interventions to the right people, at the right time and in the right geographic areas -- and syringe exchange and distribution programs have been shown to fill that role for injection drug users.

Syringe distribution is "cost-effective and cost-saving," Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in his plenary talk on high-impact prevention.

"We must address the needs of people who inject drugs and in particular the opioid epidemic," added Murray Penner, executive director of theNational Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, during a panel discussion following Mermin's talk. "We must end the congressional ban on use of federal funds for syringe access programs."

This excerpt was cross-posted with the permission of HIVandHepatitis.com. Read the full article.