Thursday, February 16, 2012

Syringe Exchange programs saves lives and reduces the spread of HIV and Viral Hepatitis. Tell Congress....

Written for the ADAP Advocacy Association

GO RIGHT TO THE PETITION sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition or read more detailed info on Syringe Exchange Programs below, then sign!

Just this week when the President presented his budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 the President included a provision in the budget that if enacted into law would allow local communities the power to use federal funds for the purpose of syringe exchange programs (SEPs).

In FY 2010 congress lifted a ban on funds for SEPs in favor of the local control provision mentioned above. Then in FY 2012 Congress flip flopped and re-implemented a Federal ban on the use of federal funds for SEPs. This week is a step in the right direction and we must tell congress to again repeal the ban. SIGN THE PETITION to tell them to do so!

What's the issue: SYRINGE ACCESS

• One third of people with HIV in the United States were infected through injection drug use.
• Every year, another 8,000 people are newly infected with HIV through sharing contaminated syringes.
• Every year, another 15,000 are newly infected with hepatitis C through sharing syringes and contaminated injection equipment.
• African Americans account for over 50% of all AIDS cases attributed to injection drug use, while Latinos account for nearly 25%.
• Among women, an estimated 61 percent of AIDS cases are due to injection drug use or the result of sexual contact with someone who contracted HIV through injection drug use.
• Younger injection drug users generally become infected with hepatitis C within two years

These infections are preventable

Syringe exchange programs provide tools, resources, and education to enable people who inject drugs to protect themselves and their communities through safer injection practices and harm reduction methods. Nearly 200 syringe exchange programs currently operate in 38 states, Puerto Rico, Washington DC, and Indian Lands. Both state and local jurisdictions authorize and regulate sterile syringe access programs. There are no federal regulations governing sterile syringe access.

Syringe exchange programs are also highly cost-effective. The lifetime cost of medical care for each new HIV infection is $385,200; the equivalent amount of money spent on syringe exchange programs would prevent at least 30 new HIV infections. In addition to the reduced risks for disease, sterile syringe access programs facilitate greater access to drug treatment. These programs provide a crucial entry point into medical care, detox and rehabilitation, and mental health treatment.

Current political systems and the medical community have failed to adequately respond to the public health crisis of HIV/AIDS in the injection drug user (IDU) population, an estimated 350,000 users in the U.S.

While some fear that such programs will increase drug use or contribute to general lawlessness, the overwhelming body of research indicates that the presence of SEPs does not result in increased drug use or crime. On the contrary, SEPs increase the availability of drug treatment for both injection and non-injection drug users, and have been shown to decrease the rate of drug use. The current state of federal law must now evolve to reflect the benefits of SEPs, and support communities in implementing SEPs how and where necessary to meet their specific needs.

The petition reads as follows:

To Speaker Boehner and Chairman Rogers,

We are petitioning to express our concerns regarding the shortsighted decision to block use of federal funding for syringe exchange programs in FY 2012 Appropriations. This policy reversal poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of American families, and will cost the nation’s taxpayers money in medical expenses to treat preventable infections for years to come.

At a time when our country faces an unprecedented epidemic of prescription drug abuse – including reports of hepatitis C outbreaks due to painkillers injected with unsterile syringes – we must keep all options on the table to protect our communities’ youth. As the Surgeon General determined in 2011, syringe exchange programs promote entry and retention in drug treatment, and these programs are effective in reducing not only HIV infections and transmission of other viruses, but also in reducing drug abuse itself.

Under previous federal policy, decisions on use of federal funds for syringe exchange were left in the hands of those who know best – local communities, in consultation with law enforcement and public health officials. This flexibility ensured that any use of federal funds remained consistent with local needs, priorities, and values.

We urge you to reverse this misguided funding restriction in FY 2013, and restore decision-making on syringe exchange to its rightful place: the wisdom of communities that are struggling to protect their own.


Kevin Maloney

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