Washington, D.C., Delegate Norton Calls for City Funding of Needle-Exchange Programs To Reduce Spread of HIV
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) recently said that needle-exchange programs in Washington, D.C., should receive public funding in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV, the AP/NBC4.com reports (AP/NBC4.com, 11/28). Norton's comments follow the release of a report earlier in the week that called HIV/AIDS a "modern epidemic" in the district with "complexities and challenges that continue to threaten the lives and well-being of far too many residents." According to the report, almost 12,500 district residents were known to be living with HIV/AIDS in 2006. Thirty-seven percent of HIV cases were transmitted through heterosexual contact, compared with 25% that were transmitted among men who have sex with men (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/27).
According to Norton, the report did not mention a congressional ban that prohibits the city from allocating public funds for needle-exchange programs. The ban likely will be overturned soon, the AP/NBC4.com reports. Although the report did say that injection drug use was the second-most common mode of HIV transmission in the city, it was "misleading" by focusing too much on sexual transmission of the virus, according to Norton (AP/NBC4.com, 11/28).
"Among the tragic data" in the report, the "statistic on" injection drug use is the "most infuriating" because needle-exchange programs -- the "tool needed to slow transmission of HIV by this route" -- are banned from receiving public funding, a Washington Post editorial says. Norton and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) "succeeded in getting the ban eliminated" in a House appropriations bill earlier this year, the editorial says, adding that the district is "waiting for the Senate to approve on an omnibus spending bill, which could happen next month." The "longer the district is denied the freedom to use its own money to help its own residents, the more lives will be needlessly put at risk," the editorial concludes (Washington Post, 11/30).