AIDS United Opposes Reinstatement of Ban on Funding for DC Syringe Exchange Programs

syringe exchange outreachWASHINGTON, D.C..  April 11, 2011 -- Although the bulk of the fiscal year 2011 federal budget was decided on Friday, April 8, negotiations on the final appropriations and budget continue to include whether to allow Washington DC to use its own local funds for Syringe Exchange Programs (SEPs).  Restoring the ban on Washington, D.C.  using local funding undermines the National HIV/AIDS Strategy goal of reducing HIV infections by 25% and overrides the ability of Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray and the City Council to enact policies that prevent HIV.  It also represents a strong break with current law as the District has been able to use its own local funds for syringe exchange since 2007. 

The lifetime medical cost of treating a person living with HIV/AIDS is approximately $355,000 and the costs go even higher when additional supportive services are added.  Researchers estimate the cost for SEPs to prevent HIV infections among injection drug users (IDUs), their partners, and family members is between $4,000 and $12,000 per avoided HIV infection. The size of the District’s investment in syringe exchange is in the area of $700,000 per year.  It only takes averting two cases of HIV per year to more than pay back the investment in this HIV prevention method. 

AIDS United sent a letter to President Barack Obama earlier today urging him to protect this vital and sensible HIV prevention program.  Currently the private sector is not able to support SEPs at the current level of the District’s investment.  Reduction of this investment will certainly result in scaling back access to syringe exchange.  AIDS United strongly opposes reinstatement of the federal and local Washington DC ban on SEP funding or changes to the current law in the continuing negotiations.