Bush Administration Should Recognize Value of Needle-Exchange Programs To Reduce HIV Spread, Letter to Editor Says
Observers need "[l]ook no farther than the president's backyard for proof" of the "devastati[on]" caused by the Bush administration's efforts to "undermine" needle exchange as part of its international HIV prevention strategy, Patsy Fleming, vice president of the board of directors for the Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit group Prevention Works, writes in a Washington Post letter to the editor. Although "almost every scientific standard" has shown that needle-exchange programs are effective at reducing the risk of HIV infection without increasing illegal drug use, Congress prohibits taxpayer funds in Washington, D.C. -- which has the largest per capita rate of new AIDS diagnoses nationwide -- from being used for needle-exchange programs in the district, according to Fleming, who was director of national AIDS policy from 1993 to 1997. As a result, needle-exchange advocacy groups in the district "must raise every cent" from private donors and foundations, which "distracts from lifesaving work," Fleming says. "We applaud efforts to ensure that sound science prevails over partisan politics in the broader global fight against AIDS and ... encourage Congress and the president to understand the effect of their shortsightedness on lives in the nation's capital," Fleming concludes (Fleming, Washington Post, 3/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.