Health GAP Applauds First Step to Remove Ban on Federal Funding for Syringe Exchange Programs

For Immediate Release

Health GAP
Contact: 

Jennifer Flynn +1 917-517-5202 or jflynn@healthgap.org
Matthew Kavanagh, + 1 202-486-2488 or matthew@healthgap.org

Health GAP Applauds First Step to Remove Ban on Federal Funding for Syringe Exchange Programs

Calls for the Obama Administration to Take Leadership

WASHINGTON - Health GAP (Global Access Project) on Friday applauded the courage shown by leaders in the House of Representatives including Chairman David Obey, who removed language from an appropriations bill that, for the past two decades, has banned the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs. AIDS activists called for the President and his administration to help ensure the bill with Chairman Obey's change becomes law.

"Providing clean syringes is proven to be one of the most effective public health interventions since the polio vaccine. It is clear that it works, and now we urge the Congress to follow Chairman Obey's lead in giving local health experts the freedom to use every possible resource to make it widely available," said Jennifer Flynn, Managing Director of Health GAP. Flynn lost a family member in 2005 to hepatitis C contracted from sharing used syringes. "If needle exchange programs were around when my cousin was injecting heroin, he would be alive today. Rep. Obey has taken the first step now it is up to the rest of the Congress and the administration to see that science and medicine trump ideology," she continued.

On Thursday June 9, 26 AIDS activists from across the Northeast U.S. were arrested during a powerful protest, where they occupied the Capitol rotunda. They were protesting the President's failure to act on his campaign promises to lift the federal ban on funding syringe exchange, and to fully fund lifesaving AIDS programs.

Health GAP called today for President Obama to renew his pledge to lift the ban during the campaign. In recent statements and briefings to AIDS activists the administration has suggested that it was waiting for Congress to take action but has removed references to Mr. Obama's support for needle exchange from the White House web site and back tracked on public support.

"Thousands of people have died in the past decade because clean syringes aren't available," said Jose De Marco, an HIV+ member of ACT UP Philadelphia and Proyecto Sol Filadelphia. "President Obama, who many of us worked to elect, promised to follow the science and lift the federal funding ban on needle exchange. Now that Congress has begun the process we need the President to make good on the promise he has failed to enact thus far."

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