Senate Panel Approves District of Columbia Budget That Would Lift Restriction on Taxpayer Support of Needle-Exchange Programs
The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday unanimously voted to approve the District of Columbia's $5.8 billion fiscal year 2003 budget and end the ban on city taxpayer support for needle-exchange programs, the Washington Post reports. Congress in 1988 prohibited federal support of needle-exchange programs and in 2000 extended the ban to prohibit D.C. taxpayer support for the programs and prohibited program operation within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, public housing and other areas with children. The ban "effectively shut down" the city's only private needle-exchange program, which distributed thousands of clean needles each month. The Senate bill would maintain the ban on federal funding of the programs but would allow the District to use tax money to fund them. The Senate's passage of the proposal "sets up a likely rematch of last winter's clash" with the House of Representatives, which "insisted" on putting the needle-exchange program restrictions in the budget bill. According to D.C. health officials, as of last winter, 6,649 people in the District had AIDS and 15,700 more are HIV-positive. At the end of 2000, the District's AIDS case rate was 153 cases per 100,000 people, 10 times the national average (Hsu, Washington Post, 7/26).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.