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Obama No Longer Supports Needle Exchange Programs That Reduce AIDS

Submitted by smorgan on
On the campaign trail, Obama made clear statements in support of needle exchange as a proven means of reducing transmission of AIDS and other diseases among drug users. Once in office, the President reiterated his commitment to ending the federal blockade against these life-saving programs:

The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users.

That language appeared on the President's own website, until it was ominously removed a couple weeks ago. Today, the President's Budget (pg. 795) formally announces Obama's decision to continue the federal needle exchange ban:

"Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no funds appropriated in this Act shall be used to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles or syringes for the hypodermic injection of any illegal drug."

With that one sentence, Obama blatantly violates an important campaign promise and chooses politics over science with thousands of lives on the line. It's just disgraceful, and if he thought no one would notice, he was wrong.  

This isn't a matter of Obama not understanding the issue. He's already said that needle exchange would "dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users," so it should be unnecessary to further debate that point or dig any deeper into the towering mountain of evidence surrounding the efficacy of needle exchange programs.

Apparently, the President simply isn't willing to spend political capital saving the lives of drug users. If this is all about politics, and I believe it is, then the question that must be asked is why the hell the President thinks needle exchange is a political liability. When Jim Ramstad's name was circulating as potential nominee for drug czar, his opposition to needle exchange was a big factor in sinking his candidacy. Moreover, the newly appointed drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, is known for supporting needle exchange during his tenure as Seattle Police Chief. Maybe Obama should talk to his new drug czar before resurrecting the Bush Administration's failed and fatal policy of opposing harm reduction.

There is simply no serious or credible opposition to implementing proven life-saving programs in the fight against AIDS. Obama's previous statements in support of such programs provoked zero backlash on the campaign trail and obviously didn’t prevent him from becoming President. All he had to do was leave this stupid language out of the budget -- like he said he would -- and no one would even have noticed.

Instead, we're forced to come to terms with the reality that our President is willing to sacrifice human lives based on an ill-conceived perception of political convenience and nothing more.

Please contact the White House to demand that Obama keep his promise to support needle exchange and save lives.

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