AIDS United Commends U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin for Affirming Effectiveness of SSPs
Calls on Congress to Continue Allowing Federal Funds for SSPs
Statement of Mark Ishaug, President and CEO, AIDS United
Washington, D.C. February 23, 2011 – AIDS United commends U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., for issuing her determination that Syringe Services Programs (SSPs), which provide hypodermic needles or syringes to injection drug users (IDUs), are effective at reducing both HIV infection and drug use. This finding is a critical one for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts as it is a requirement by law that will allow funding of SSPs by some Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) programs.
AIDS United applauds Dr. Benjamin for affirming 20 years of scientific evidence that demonstrates the public health benefit of SSPs. AIDS United also urges Congress to continue allowing this scientific evidence to inform sound public health policy, and retain current legal language allowing federal funds to be used for SSPs.
SSPs have been shown not only to reduce the risk of transmission of HIV and other bloodborne infections such as viral hepatitis, but also reduce substance use by promoting entry in — and retention to — substance abuse treatment programs. In fact, evidence has shown that not only were new SSP participants five times more likely to enter drug treatment than non-SSP participants, but that former SSP participants were more likely to report significant reduction in injection, to stop injecting altogether, and to remain in drug treatment. A summary of the research on SSPs is available at http://www.samhsa.gov/ssp.
For more than 20 years, AIDS United has invested in community-based Syringe Services Programs, directing private resources where often none had previously been available, and filling the gap for such services left by the void of federal funds.
AIDS United also is encouraged that HHS plans to issue guidelines regarding implementation requirements for SSPs based on Dr. Benjamin’s determination. These are tremendous steps forward in preventing the spread of HIV and reducing drug use in the United States. Congress must continue taking these steps forward and retain legal language that maintains federal funding for SSPs.