‘More Needs To Be Done’ To Curb Spread of HIV in Washington, D.C., Opinion Piece Says
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) "should be congratulated for accomplishing last year what many said was impossible: repealing the federal ban prohibiting" Washington, D.C., from "spending its own money" on needle-exchange programs to curb the spread of HIV and other bloodborne diseases, Naomi Long, director of the Drug Policy Alliance's Washington office, and Bill Piper, the alliance's director of national affairs, write in a Washington Post opinion piece. The district "recently announced that it would invest $650,000 in needle-exchange programs to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS," the authors write. They add that the "city should be applauded for this move" because it is a "major investment toward the creation of a comprehensive continuum of care of drug users that includes getting people into drug treatment and linking them to medical care, rapid HIV counseling and testing, and a comprehensive medication adherence program."
However, "more needs to be done," Long and Piper write, adding that the district "should amend its paraphernalia laws to make clean syringes more accessible through pharmacies, increase the number of beds in local detox centers and increase the length of stay for drug treatment clinics." In addition, city officials should "make good on their promise to improve HIV testing practices, counseling and comprehensive treatment for people in the D.C. jail." Congress also should "repeal the national funding ban that prohibits cities from using their share of federal AIDS prevention money" on needle-exchange programs, the authors write. According to Long and Piper, up to 300,000 U.S. residents "could contract HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C over the next decade because of a lack of access to sterile syringes." They write that this figure "essentially makes the national syringe ban a death sentence for drug users, their partners and children," concluding, "Members of Congress could spare their lives by repealing the ban. The question is, will they?" (Long/Piper, Washington Post, 1/27).