Last Friday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to include a provision lifting the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs. The appropriations bill with this provision will appear before the entire House this week, and the Senate will likely vote on the bill next week.This is a major opportunity to end the decades-long ban—we need your help to make this happen.One-fifth of the 1.2 million Americans with HIV are injection drug users, according to a 2009 CDC report. Seventeen organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organization, have assessed syringe exchange and concluded that they reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS without increasing drug use. A 2008 journal article reported 75% reduction in HIV transmission rates among injection drug users in New York City after a syringe exchange program was put in place.In addition to reducing the spread of HIV, syringe exchange programs link an at-risk population with medical and social services. According to the CDC, a national study found that 86% of syringe exchange programs refer participants to addiction treatment services. These programs also often provide access to services such as HIV testing, education on topics like hepatitis and safe sex practices, and TB screening.Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, almost one-third of all new HIV infections are related to drug injection, according to an Open Society Institute report. In many countries, including Vietnam, Russia, Georgia, and China, injection drug use is the primary means of HIV transmission. The US is the largest funder of HIV/AIDS programs internationally, yet, to date, the domestic ban on syringe exchange funding has been applied to international programs. The US does not support syringe exchange, even in countries where a majority of new infections are due to injection drug use.This month, we have? an opportunity to take action to ensure that vital domestic and international syringe exchange programs receive federal funding. Call your member of Congress today and ask him or her to prevent restrictions on syringe exchange funding from being added to the appropriations bill. A sample call script is below. The House votes on this Wednesday, July 22nd, so call today. The Senate will vote on this likely next week–we'll keep you posted so you can call again!For more information on syringe exchange, please see the Trust for America's Health issue brief on reducing HIV and hepatitis spread in the US (PDF).Instructions and Script for Calls:
- Call 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative.
- Introduce yourself as a member of Physicians for Human Rights and a constituent of your Representative.
- Sample call script:"As a [health professional/medical student/concerned citizen], evidence and human rights based HIV prevention policy is an important issue for me. The evidence has shown that needle exchange programs are a proven prevention strategy for HIV and Hepatitis, do not increase drug use, and provide a conduit to primary health care for hard to reach populations. Clean needles save lives."Can I count on Representative _____ to support the removal the ban on federal funding for needle exchange and prevent any restrictions to needle exchange programs when it comes to vote through the Appropriations Bill?"
- After calling your representative, send an email to Sarah Kalloch at skalloch [at] phrusa [dot] org and tell her how the call went.
Look for more PHR updates and action alerts as the appropriations bill moves through the House and Senate.Clean needles save lives!