On July 24, the US House of Representatives voted to end the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs. Representative Jos_ Serrano publicly applauded PHR for our work on needle exchange funding issues:
I also wish to recognize the incredible efforts of the various national and local groups that have been working for years to make this possible, especially AIDS Action, Physicians for Human Rights and the Harm Reduction Coalition. Without the work of these valiant groups all across the nation, the step we took today never would have been possible.
Unfortunately, the House passed an amendment appropriations bill that restricts federal funding from needle exchange programs that operate within 1,000 feet of day care centers, schools, universities, public pools, parks, playgrounds, video arcades or youth centers or an event sponsored by these organizations. This provision makes the House vote a half-victory for PHR and other AIDS activist groups because it unnecessarily limits the programs that could receive federal funding. (This Washington Post article has more information on the House vote.)Before the Senate began its summer recess Senators were discussing the appropriations bill in committee. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill in mid-September. As the legislation moves through the Senate, there is a possibility that the 1000 foot restriction could be removed before the bill reaches the president's desk.People around the US are working to tell the Senate that "Clean needles save lives!" A recent New York Times editorial began:
Nearly 600,000 Americans with AIDS have died since the beginning of the epidemic. Nearly a third of those cases can be traced to intravenous drug users who became infected with the virus that causes AIDS by sharing contaminated needles and who sometimes infect wives, lovers and unborn children. Many of the dead would never have been infected if Congress had allowed federal financing for programs that have been shown the world over to slow the spread of disease, without increasing drug use, by making clean needles available to addicts.
A Washington Post editorial echoed that sentiment. We must continue to advocate on behalf of the drug users and their families, people without a strong voice in Congress. Needle exchange funding will save lives.In a few weeks PHR will launch a postcard campaign to let Senators know that their constituents support federal funding for needle exchange services. To kickoff the academic year, the Student Program will provide the resources and support for student chapters nationwide to hold postcard drives and other awareness-raising initiatives as the Senate vote approaches.Please email me at skalloch [at] phrusa [dot] org if you would like to be involved in this action in your community, or contact Danielle if you are a student and want to learn more. Look for more updates on this exciting campaign throughout the next couple weeks.Thank you for all of your support so far! This progress would be impossible without you.