Ban on City Funding for Needle-Exchange Programs in Washington, D.C., ‘Clear Hazard to Public Health,’ Editorial Says
Congress' ban on locally financed needle-exchange programs in Washington, D.C., is an "insult to the city's voters and a clear hazard to public health," a New York Times editorial says (New York Times, 6/4). A federal law signed by former President Clinton in 1998 bans the district government from using local tax money to fund any organization that operates a needle-exchange program. Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) recently said he will make it a priority to push for the removal of language from a district appropriations bill that prevents the city from financing needle-exchange programs. District Mayor Adrian Fenty has said that he will provide funds for needle-exchange programs as soon as Congress removes the language (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/29).
According to the Times, the large number of HIV cases in the district that can be traced to injection drug use is "partly the fault of Congress," which has "wrongly and disastrously used its power" over the district's budget to ban the city from funding needle-exchange programs to curb the spread of the virus. "Ideologues" in Congress "need to get out of the way and let public health officials save lives" by implementing a needle-exchange program in the district, the editorial concludes (New York Times, 6/4).