December 23, 2011

December 23, 2011
Congress Bans Needle Exchange Programs


Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Friday and we have almost made it through another work week. I hope you have had a safe and great week. It has been another busy one for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

I received some horrible news about our government officials banning needles exchange funding. So today I will fill you in on the latest news.

As part of the 2012 spending package being voted on today, Congress is restoring a ban on using federal funding for syringe exchange programs that reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases. The ban, enacted in the 1980s and repealed in 2009, was largely responsible for hundreds of thousands of Americans contracting HIV/AIDS directly or indirectly from the sharing of used syringes. Advocates warn that restoring the ban will result in thousands of Americans contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or other infectious diseases next year alone.

The federal syringe funding ban was costly in both human and fiscal terms it is outrageous that Congress is restoring it given how overwhelming and clear the science is in support of making sterile syringes widely available. Make no mistake about it members of Congress who supported this ban have put the lives of their constituents in jeopardy.

House Republicans passed restrictive language in three separate appropriations bills, and succeeded in getting two of three bans in the current House Senate compromise omnibus for Fiscal Year 2012 being voted on today. In addition to the overarching ban on domestic use of federal funds contained in the Labor HHS spending bill, House republicans also succeeded in imposing a ban on use of State Department funds for syringe access in international programs. In large parts of the world the HIV/AIDS epidemic is being driven by injection drug use. The international syringe funding ban will mean the global HIV/AIDS epidemic will continue to grow.

The existing federal syringe exchange policy, signed into law by President Obama in December of 2009, allows states and local public health officials to use federal funds for syringe access, in consultation and with the consent of local law enforcement. The policy change is widely credited with having prevented thousands of new cases of HIV and Hepatitis C, thereby saving many lives and improving public health and safety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, American Public Health Association, and numerous other scientific bodies have found that syringe exchange programs are highly effective at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. Increasing the availability of sterile syringes through exchange programs, pharmacies and other outlets also helps injection drug users obtain drug education and treatment. Eight federal reports have found that increasing access to sterile syringes saves lives without increasing drug use.

We may have lost this battle, but we have just begun to fight. The Republicans who insisted on restoring the ban, and the Democrats who did not fight hard enough to oppose it, will be responsible for thousands of Americans contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. We will make sure Americans know which members of Congress care about their health and well being and which do not.

Now you know the rest of the story. So what will you do now? Dab the AIDS Bear and I are hoping you will contact your elected officials in Washington, DC and complain about the ban of funding for needle exchange programs. Now the ball is in your court. We are hoping you will care about your fellow Americans more than the elected officials in DC.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,



Daddy Dab