Congressman argues for needle-exchange funding

José E. Serrano – Fighting HIV-AIDS One Syringe at a Time –

Serrano (D-NY), the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on financial services and general government, has written a column for the Washington Post, arguing for the expansion of needle-exchange programs.

Despite high and growing rates of HIV among Latinos and African Americans, Serrano writes,

our federal government — which is working to reduce infection rates around the globe — is ignoring a simple, effective step that could be helpful in the United States. Since 1988, Congress has banned federal funding of syringe exchange programs. We must lift this ban.

According to Serrano, the arguments of needle-exchange opponents are not based on fact:

Consider what Elias A. Zerhouni, the respected director of the National Institutes of Health, wrote to Congress in 2004: “A number of studies conducted in the United States have shown that syringe exchange programs do not increase drug use among participants or surrounding community members and are associated with reductions in the incidence of HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C in the drug-using population.”

Serrano further argues:

Syringe exchange programs help address issues beyond HIV-AIDS. For one thing, they provide opportunities to reduce drug use; studies show that syringe exchange programs work as a gateway to other forms of intervention, including counseling, treatment and general education on risky behavior.

Unlike the federal government, many local and state governments allow and often finance needle exchange programs. As our economy sags, however, they are struggling to maintain their support. Helping them would save taxpayers money in the long run. The average lifetime health-care costs for an HIV patient are estimated at $618,900. Clean syringes cost around eight cents each.

Serrano recently introduced the Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention Act in Congress, which would remove existing restrictions on the use of federal funds for needle-exchange programs.


~ by h.e.g. on August 31, 2008.

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