President Bush’s Budget Proposal To Reinstate Ban on Needle-Exchange Programs in Washington, D.C., ‘Gratuitous, Shortsighted,’ Editorial Says
President Bush's attempt to reinstate a ban on city funding for needle-exchange programs in Washington, D.C., in his fiscal year 2009 budget proposal is "gratuitous and shortsighted," a Washington Post editorial says. It adds, "This is unconscionable, especially since [injection] drug use is helping to fuel the HIV/AIDS crisis gripping the city" (Washington Post, 2/8).
In January, Bush signed a FY 2008 omnibus spending bill (HR 2764) that effectively lifted a ban on city funding for needle-exchange programs. The ban had been in place since a federal law preventing city funding was enacted in 1999. A report released in November by district health officials found that injection drug use was the second most common cause of HIV transmission in the city (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/3).
Following the signing of the FY 2008 spending bill, district Mayor Adrian Fenty awarded $300,000 to Prevention Works!, the city's only needle-exchange program, to scale up its services, according to the Post. Fenty plans to award grants to four more organizations that provide needle-exchange services by April, the editorial says.
Bush's FY 2009 proposal will not affect Fenty's current plans to expand needle-exchange programs, but Fenty "will have to fight anew" to prevent the ban from reaching next year's final appropriations bill, the editorial says. Bush and Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who proposed the ban, are "part of the head-in-the-sand crowd" that believes needle exchanges encourage injection drug use, the Post says, concluding that Congress "would do the district a good deed and potentially save lives if it ignored Bush on this issue" (Washington Post, 2/8).