Bush Lifts Ban On Funding Of Needle-Exchange Programs In Washington

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Needle-Exchange Programs

President Bush last week signed a $555 billion fiscal year 2008omnibus spending bill (HR 2764) that effectively lifts a ban on cityfunding for needle-exchange programs in Washington, D.C., the NewYork Times reports. Since 1999, the district has been theonly U.S. city barred by federal law from using local funds forneedle-exchange programs. A report released last month by districthealth officials found that injection drug use was the second mostcommon cause of HIV transmission in the city (Urbina, New YorkTimes, 12/27/07).

Mayor Adrian Fenty in a recentstatement said the city plans to include needle exchanges in a largerprogram to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. About $1 million in cityfunds will be allocated for needle-exchange programs in 2008.District City Council member Jim Graham said a city-fundedneedle-exchange program will have a significant impact on the city'shigh rate of HIV/AIDS. He added, "This program will save lives"(Manning, AP/Google.com,12/27/07).

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), chair of the HouseSubcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, said,"For too long, Congress has unfairly imposed on the citizens ofD.C. by trying out their social experiments there." He added,"The ban on needle exchanges was one of the most egregious ofthese impositions, especially because the consensus is clear thatthese programs save lives" (New York Times,12/27/07).

Omnibus Provisions

The omnibus bill signed by Bush, which combined 11 unfinishedspending measures, will fund the Departmentof State, USAID,and other global health and international aid programs. It alsoaffects the MillenniumChallenge Corporation, which aims to encourage economic andpolitical reforms in developing countries. The measure provides $6.5billion for U.S. and global health activities, including emergencyspending, which is $1.4 billion more than was allocated in 2007 and$796 million more than Bush's request, according to the HouseAppropriations Committee.

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Five billion dollars in foreignoperations spending will go to the President'sEmergency Plan for AIDS Relief -- at least $1.2 billion more thanthe program received last year. The measure also includes a provisionthat would allow overseas HIV/AIDS programs relief fromabstinence-education mandates. By law, at least one-third of HIVprevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR must beused for abstinence-until-marriage programs.

Under the bill,the Global Fund To FightAIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will receive about $841 million.The amount includes $546 million in the State-Foreign Operationssection and $295 million in the Labor-HHS-Educationsection of the bill. Bush had requested $300 million for the GlobalFund, all of which was allocated in the Labor-HHS bill.

Inaddition, the measure provides $1.8 billion for global health andchild survival programs, including $347 million for HIV/AIDSprograms. Funding for maternal and child health programs willincrease by $101 million, and malaria and TB funding will increase by$101 million and $72 million, respectively. The measure will reducefunding for MCC to $1.54 billion -- about half of Bush's requested $3billion. A proposal to change the way MCC funding is dispersed wasdropped.

The measure also will increase funding for AIDS DrugAssistance Programs -- federal- and state-funded programs thatprovide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured andunderinsured HIV-positive individuals -- by $19 million to $809million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/19/07).

Related Editorials

  • New York Times:\tCongress and Bush have "done the right thing" by lifting\tthe ban against city funding for needle-exchange programs in the\tdistrict, but an "even broader more damaging law" that\tprohibits federal funds for such programs in the U.S. and abroad\t"must also be rescinded," a Times editorial\tsays. According to the Times, the "most important\tmedical and public health organizations" in the U.S. endorsed\tneedle-exchange programs more than 10 years ago, and the programs\thave proven to be "highly successful" worldwide. The law\tprohibiting the use of federal funds for these "crucial"\tprograms has "hobbled" HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in the\tU.S. and abroad. Health organizations that use U.S. tax dollars\t"should be encouraged rather than blocked from developing"\tneedle-exchange programs, the editorial says, concluding,\t"Eliminating the federal ban would save many thousands of lives\tevery year" (New York Times, 12/28/07).

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  • Pittsburgh\tPost-Gazette: The "change in the law" regarding\tfunding for needle-exchange programs in the district "owes more\tto a change in the leadership of Congress" than to the "grim\tfacts" about the city's HIV/AIDS rate, a Post-Gazette\teditorial says. Because "Democrats were prepared to face\treality at the intersection of compassion and common sense,"\tBush was "sent a budget bill that allowed the district to use\tits own funds for needle-exchange programs," the editorial\tsays, adding that to "his credit," Bush signed the bill\tinto law. "The Democratic-controlled Congress can't claim a\tlong list of great achievements since taking up the reins of power,\tbut little things can make a big difference," the Post-Gazette\tsays, concluding, "This was one. A blow was struck for\tgood sense in a matter of life and death" (Pittsburgh\tPost-Gazette, 12/31/07).

Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserDaily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and signup for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is publishedfor kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.

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