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July 31, 2009

House Bill Lifts Ban On Needle Exchanges

"The House on Friday approved a bill that would lift the 21-year ban on using federal money for needle exchange programs, a move that could give the District and other cities more flexibility in their efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS among intravenous drug users.

"This is the first time in over 20 years that we are on the verge of recognition by the federal government of the proven cost-effectiveness and impact of syringe exchange as a very important tool for prevention of HIV infection and viral hepatitis," said Ronald Johnson, deputy executive director of AIDS Action, a Washington-based advocacy group. "Allowing the local community to use federal funds is very critical to stopping these epidemics."

"But the bill, sponsored by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), includes a restriction against using the money to assist any program that distributes needles within 1,000 feet of day-care centers, schools, parks, playgrounds, pools and youth centers."

Read more in Washington Post, July 25, 2009.

Comment: In Philadelphia at least, this restriction would cover just about all of the city, making Federal funding for needle exchange almost impossible here. The provision was added to get more votes for the bill.