Tell Congress to Lift the Ban on SEPs
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope you had a safe and great week. It was another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.
Have you ever heard about syringe exchange programs? This is where people, usually addicts, turn in old needles for new ones. This is done to help prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Just this week when the President presented his budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 the President included a provision in the budget that if enacted into law would allow local communities the power to use federal funds for the purpose of syringe exchange programs (SEPs).
In FY 2010 congress lifted a ban on funds for SEPs in favor of the local control provision mentioned above. Then in FY 2012 Congress flip flopped and re-implemented a Federal ban on the use of federal funds for SEPs. This week is a step in the right direction and we must tell congress to again repeal the ban.
What's the issue: SYRINGE ACCESS
• One third of people with HIV in the United States were infected through injection drug use.
• Every year, another 8,000 people are newly infected with HIV through sharing contaminated syringes.
• Every year, another 15,000 are newly infected with hepatitis C through sharing syringes and contaminated injection equipment.
• African Americans account for over 50% of all AIDS cases attributed to injection drug use, while Latinos account for nearly 25%.
• Among women, an estimated 61 percent of AIDS cases are due to injection drug use or the result of sexual contact with someone who contracted HIV through injection drug use.
• Younger injection drug users generally become infected with hepatitis C within two years
These infections are preventable
Syringe exchange programs provide tools, resources, and education to enable people who inject drugs to protect themselves and their communities through safer injection practices and harm reduction methods. Nearly 200 syringe exchange programs currently operate in 38 states, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, and Indian Lands. Both state and local jurisdictions authorize and regulate sterile syringe access programs. There are no federal regulations governing sterile syringe access.
Syringe exchange programs are also highly cost-effective. The lifetime cost of medical care for each new HIV infection is $385,200; the equivalent amount of money spent on syringe exchange programs would prevent at least 30 new HIV infections. In addition to the reduced risks for disease, sterile syringe access programs facilitate greater access to drug treatment. These programs provide a crucial entry point into medical care, detox and rehabilitation, and mental health treatment.
Current political systems and the medical community have failed to adequately respond to the public health crisis of HIV/AIDS in the injection drug user (IDU) population, an estimated 350,000 users in the U.S.
While some fear that such programs will increase drug use or contribute to general lawlessness, the overwhelming body of research indicates that the presence of SEPs does not result in increased drug use or crime. On the contrary, SEPs increase the availability of drug treatment for both injection and non-injection drug users, and have been shown to decrease the rate of drug use. The current state of federal law must now evolve to reflect the benefits of SEPs, and support communities in implementing SEPs how and where necessary to meet their specific needs.
So what can you do to help? Call your elected officials in Washington, DC and let them know that Syringe Exchange Programs saves lives by reducing transmission rates of HIV and Viral Hepatitis; tell congress to lift the ban on SEPs.
Hope you have a great Saturday!
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,