House Subcommittee Votes To Remove Appropriations Bill Language That Restricts Washington, D.C., From Funding Needle-Exchange Programs
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on Tuesday voted to remove from a Washington, D.C., appropriations bill language that prevents the city from financing needle-exchange programs, the AP/NBC4.com reports (AP/NBC4.com, 6/6). The ban was first imposed under a federal law signed by former President Clinton in 1998 that prohibits the district government from using local tax money to fund any organization that operates a needle-exchange program. The House has added the ban each year to the district's appropriations bill.
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), chair of the subcommittee, recently said he would make it a priority to push for removal of the language. District Mayor Adrian Fenty has said that he will provide funds for needle-exchange programs as soon as Congress removes the language.
Injection drug use is the second most common mode of HIV transmission among men in the district and the most common mode among women in the city. Prevention Works!, the district's only needle-exchange program, is financed through private donations and reaches about one-third of the estimated 9,700 injection drug users in the city (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/5). The appropriations bill still faces a series of votes in the House and Senate before being sent to President Bush (AP/NBC4.com, 6/6).
Although HIV/AIDS is "laying waste" to the district, the city is "prohibited by Congress from using its own money to fund a needle-exchange program," a Washington Post editorial says. Needle-exchange programs "constitute but one weapon in an arsenal of measures to help" curb the spread of HIV, and they also "make it easier for outreach workers to talk to users about their addictions and then get them into treatment," the editorial says. If "all goes well, the district would be able to get something up and running for" fiscal year 2008, the editorial says, concluding that "Congress should let it happen" (Washington Post, 6/6).