AIDS United Supports National Day of Action on Syringe Exchange

Washington, D.C.  March 21, 2012 -- AIDS United strongly supports today’s National Day of Action on Syringe Exchange.  With meetings and events taking place across the United States, the Day of Action is calling attention to the divisive decision by Congress to restore an outdated ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange for Fiscal Year 2012.  Syringe exchange programs (SEPs) provide sterile syringes, prevention education, HIV counseling and testing, referrals to drug treatment as well as essential medical services and social services for injection drug users. As many as 36% of AIDS cases in the U.S. (354,000 people) and 68% of current hepatitis C infections in the U.S. (2.8 million people) are directly or indirectly caused by the use of infected syringes. 

The Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a host of other independent agencies and academics have repeatedly shown that syringe exchange actually saves lives by reducing HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C infections and also reduces substance abuse by connecting injection drug users to alcohol and other drug treatment.  A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the rate of IDUs infected with HIV has dropped 50% since the 1990s. Health officials said that the drop is likely due to the scale-up of SEPs. 

Syringe exchange also saves money.  Researchers estimate that for every dollar spent on syringe exchange prevention the U.S. saves approximately $13 to $17 in future HIV costs.  “It is utterly inexplicable that Members of Congress, many of whom profess to be fiscal conservatives would choose a path that inarguably will lead to increased health care costs for all Americans,” said William McColl, AIDS United’s Political Director.  “AIDS United calls on Congress to end this absurd and obsolete ban on federal funding for syringe exchange that was originally imposed in the 1980s.  The ban has increased costs for the United States every year it is in effect and now we are spending millions of dollars on treatment for people who might never have been infected.  It will just increase over time,” he added.