U.K. Rejects U.S. Opposition to Needle Exchanges at UNAIDS Board Meeting
U.K. officials on Monday at a UNAIDS board meeting in Geneva expressed opposition to a U.S. proposal to change UNAIDS policy to ban needle exchanges, saying the programs are effective, especially in countries where injection drug use is contributing to the spread of HIV, London's Guardian reports. "We support effective harm-reduction programs, especially needle and syringe exchange and methadone substitution therapy because they have been proven to reduce HIV infection among injecting drug users and their sexual partners in many countries," U.K. International Development Minister Gareth Thomas said during his opening statement. Earlier this month, a U.S. official asked that all references to needle-exchange programs be excluded from the UNAIDS governing policy paper, and the board might vote on the issue for the first time during the three-day session, which concludes Wednesday. Injection drug use accounts for about 80% of HIV/AIDS cases in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and the practice contributes to the spread of the virus worldwide. Earlier this year, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime at the 48th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, adopted the U.S. position opposing needle exchanges. U.S. foreign aid cannot be used to provide funding or services to programs that include needle exchanges (Boseley, Guardian, 6/28). Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Friday sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to stop U.S. efforts to remove the reference to needle-exchange programs in the UNAIDS policy document, CQ HealthBeat reports. "The National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academy of Sciences have all found that syringe-exchange programs save lives and do not increase drug use," the letter says (CQ HealthBeat, 6/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.