Congress Heard Us!

There has been considerable progress since my last update on needle exchange and appropriations. The Senate-House conference committee released a 2010 spending package which includes language ending the ban on federal funding of needle exchange and doesn’t include the troubling 1,000-foot restriction that was in the original House language. After a failed attempt earlier in the week to reinsert the full ban, the House of Representatives yesterday passed the spending package with the new language, which will allow cities and states to use federal HIV prevention dollars for needle exchange programs. The Appropriations website? summarizes the progress:

Modifies a prohibition on the use of funds in the Act for needle exchange programs; the revised provision prohibits the use of funds in this Act for needle exchange programs in any location that local public health or law enforcement agencies determine to be inappropriate.

As Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) said in his press release following the vote:

I congratulate my colleagues on ending a senseless funding ban that was hindering our efforts to stamp out HIV/AIDS and other transmissible diseases….The science has been clear for years—syringe exchange works. There were so many states and localities already running syringe exchange programs; it was the national politicians that were behind the curve. Today the national politicians have caught up with local government and scientific research, and lives will be saved as a result.

The House lifting of the ban is because of strong leadership by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congressman David Obey (D-WI), Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and others. The Senate vote is expected over the weekend. PHR can't thank you all enough for your efforts to end this harmful ban—a great victory for health and human rights!

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