Harm Reduction: Bill to End Federal Needle Exchange Ban Filed

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) and 25 cosponsors filed a bill Wednesday that would remove all restrictions on the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs (NEPs). The bill, the Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention (CAHP) Act of 2008 (H.R. 6680) is aimed at reducing the spread of blood-borne diseases that may be transmitted through infected syringes, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/needle-exchange-logo.gif
widely-used syringe exchange graphic
NEPs have been proven to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases, and there are now about 185 legal NEPs operating in the US. But since 1988, when the first legal NEP was approved, Congress has barred the use of any federal funds for such programs. While about half of NEPs receive some state or local funding, the federal ban means the cash-starved programs are blocked from accessing a major potential funding source.

The CAHP Act is endorsed by a more than a hundred HIV/AIDS, hep C, and other public policy groups. They have been pushing for more than a year to get the ban lifted. The Harm Reduction Coalition was one of the groups welcoming Serrano's bill.

"The Harm Reduction Coalition applauds Rep. Serrano's leadership in taking on the outdated and harmful federal funding ban", said Allan Clear, the group's executive director. "The federal funding ban has resulted in tens of thousands of needless HIV and hepatitis C infections. We know that syringe exchange works -- it's time for Congress to pave the way, and give communities the flexibility to use their federal HIV prevention dollars according to their own needs and priorities."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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