Despite numerous studies which document the effectiveness of needle exchange programs in combating the spread of AIDS, (as well as the support of the AMA, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Academy of Sciences) the Clinton Administration has not displayed the courage to lift the ban which currently forbids states to use federal AIDS dollars to fund NEPs. In the face of this inaction, two members of congress have introduced a bill to save the lives that are currently being sacrificed to political considerations.
Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Nancy Pelosi (D- CA) have introduced H.R. 2212, which would allow states to use federal funds that are already going toward AIDS prevention to be used for needle exchange. Whatever your political opinion on the use of federal funds for state health programs in general, it is both discriminatory and short-sighted to single out these programs, and thereby IV drug users and their families and partners, for exclusion. H.R. 2212 would give state governments the ability to spend existing federal AIDS funds on needle exchange programs, if they so choose. Reps. Cummings and Pelosi will be seeking co-sponsors when the house returns to session in September, and are planning to bring needle exchange clients to Washington to testify.
DRCNet urges our members to write to their representatives asking that they support H.R. 2212, and further, that they consider co-sponsoring the bill. We would note that your representatives will be "home" for most of August, so a personal visit, especially by a group of constituents, would be a great way to show your support. If you cannot make it to your Representative's office, or if they will not be in during August, remember that letters are more effective than e-mail, faxes or phone calls. Also, if you are a member of an organization in your district, you might consider seeking their support as well. (Of course, a fax or phone call would be far better than nothing.)
DRCNet's AIDS web site section at http://www.drcnet.org/AIDS has information on the threat of drug-related AIDS transmission, specific to each state. For more information on the effectiveness of needle exchange programs, visit the Safe Works AIDS Project at http://www.safeworks.org and make use of their extensive collection of documents and links to other sites. You might even bring information from these web sites to your Rep's office for his/her edification.