Rep. Souder Protests HHS Sponsorship of Conference on Meth Use, AIDS That Promotes ‘Harm Reduction’ Approach to Drug Use
Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) is protesting HHS' sponsorship of a conference exploring the link between crystal methamphetamine and the spread of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis because the meeting's organizers promote a "harm reduction" approach to drug policy, the Washington Times reports. Harm reduction programs provide injection drug users with clean needles and syringes or methadone therapy to help reduce the risk of them becoming infected with bloodborne diseases. However, some Republicans view such programs as a cover for those who wish to decriminalize illegal drugs, according to the Times. The conference, which is scheduled for Aug. 19-20 in Salt Lake City, is organized by the Harm Reduction Project, and HHS is listed as the main sponsor of the conference because it awarded $3,000 in travel scholarships to participants. Souder on Friday sent "an angry letter" to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, saying the conference's support of harm reduction programs undermines federal policy, according to the Times. "That administration officials from your department are consulting with harm reduction advocates ... and sponsoring conferences controlled by the harm reduction network completely undermines the work of the president, the Congress, and the men and women who work in law enforcement across the nation who are trying desperately to fight the meth epidemic," Souder wrote. However, Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann, who is speaking at the conference, said harm reduction techniques are successfully used in other countries. Earlier this year, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) praised the conference. Other government agencies sponsoring the conference include the Utah Department of Health, the Utah State Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health and the California Department of Health Services (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 8/16).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.