The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Scott Sanders: 202-332-2303

Obama Administration Shows Disappointing Inaction on Syringe Exchange Funding

Stronger Commitment Needed for Global Health Funding, Including Global AIDS Efforts


Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is extremely disappointed that
President Obama's FY2010 budget proposal retains the decades-old ban on
federal funding for syringe exchange services despite the White House's
support for evidence-based HIV prevention strategies and a reversal of
the misguided federal ban.

"Given President Obama's strong support for syringe exchange
programs and the Administration's commitment to invigorating the
federal response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we hoped that the President
would seize the first opportunity for lifting federal restrictions on
this lifesaving prevention strategy," said Paola Barahona, MPH, Senior
Global Health Policy Advocate. "Denying people at risk for HIV a proven
prevention intervention is a denial of their basic human rights. We
will continue working with the Administration and Congress to remove
the obstacles to the implementation of syringe exchange programs in
communities devastated by HIV."

President Obama has repeatedly expressed his support for lifting the
ban, pledging during the campaign, the transition, and after the
Inauguration to take action on this issue. Most recently, the White
House website stated: "The President also supports lifting the federal
ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of [HIV]
infection among drug users."

Moving forward, PHR urges President Obama to ask Congress for
appropriations legislation free of syringe exchange restrictions,
endorse Rep. Jose Serrano's Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention Act
(H.R. 179), and direct the Department of Health and Human Services and
the Department of State to remove all non-legislative barriers
preventing federal funding for syringe exchange as part of domestic and
global U.S. programs.

Global health programs must also have the resources needed to meet
the global health components of the Millennium Development Goals. The
levels outlined in the president's budget for FY'10 fall short of what
is required.

"Key to the greater investment in global health is the scale up of
funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR),"
said Pat Daoust, MSN, RN, Director of PHR's Health Action AIDS
Campaign. Last year, Congress authorized $48 billion for PEPFAR over
five years with the goals of treating at least 3 million people with
HIV, preventing 12 million new infections, caring for 12 million
people, including 5 million orphans and vulnerable children, and
training and retaining at least 140,000 new health workers.

"Congress noted the need to consistently scale up resources over
time and the funding they authorized was the minimum amount needed to
meet these laudable targets," said Daoust. "Those goals are only
attainable, however, if we commit the necessary resources in 2010 and

The Health Action AIDS Campaign at PHR mobilizes health
professionals to support comprehensive HIV prevention and care
initiatives that target women and injection drug users and advocates
for unprecedented funds to fight global AIDS, strengthening Africa's
health systems and health workforce.

PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.