In five days, we will have the opportunity to put a proven public health intervention to work. Last year, Congress imposed a moratorium on federal funding for needle exchange until March 31st of this year. On Wednesday, that moratorium ends. The administration now has the science, the support, and the authority to move ahead with this life saving intervention.
Last year, Congress gave the Secretary of Health and Human Services a clear directive. After March 31st, federal funding for needle exchange projects may proceed if the Secretary determines that exchange projects are effective in preventing the spread of HIV and do not encourage the use of illegal drugs.
The science is in. The findings are clear. The Administration has the evidence.
Six government funded studies have documented the positive effects of needle exchange. There is a consensus statement from a distinguished National Institutes of Health panel affirming that needle exchange prevents HIV infections and does not promote drug abuse. According to the panel, "individuals in areas with needle exchange programs have increased likelihood of entering drug treatment."
Scores of leading national organizations support needle exchange, including the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. There is public support as well -- 61% of Americans think state and local governments should decide for themselves whether federal funds should be used for needle exchange.*
I urge the Clinton Administration to act. Secretary Shalala should exercise her authority and immediately lift the ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs.
* Kaiser Family Foundation, "1997 National Survey of Americans on AIDS/HIV," December 1997
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