The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS today commended a U.S. House subcommittee decision to lift the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs as part of its fiscal year 2010 budget negotiations.
The Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services voted to lift the ban, but the commission's advocates say the move is threatened by an amendment calling for new restrictions, including rules against syringe exchanges within 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other buildings.
"The provision is unnecessarily restrictive and would mean that syringe exchange would not be permitted in many urban areas where the majority of HIV-transmission associated with needle exchange takes place," the commission said in a statement. "If passed, this amendment would reinstate the ban."
NBLCA is urging community leaders to call upon their representatives in the Senate to take action on the ban, which has been in place for more than two decades.
Founded in 1987, the Leadership Commission on AIDS is the oldest group of its kind. It is a nonprofit group which conducts policy, advocacy and research on HIV AIDS issues at the national level.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, 20 percent of whom are injection drug users and nearly 50 percent of whom are African Americans. African Americans continue to have the highest HIV/AIDS incidence rate of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. and injection drug use remains one of the top causes of HIV transmission among them.
Numerous scientific studies have shown positive health outcomes resulting from syringe exchange program utilization in communities of color. With the support of Congress, lifting the ban will facilitate significant reductions in new HIV infections and wider access to treatment and medical care.
\"Congressman David Obey's (D-WI) effort as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, is another major accomplishment in the fight against AIDS," said C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of the NBLCA. "Needle exchange programs have proven to be an effective public health intervention, which we continue to support as part of our national HIV/AIDS prevention strategy. The more able we are to eliminate the major barriers that impede access to needed funding and interventions, the more able we will be to eradicate the disease, especially in communities hardest hit by the epidemic."