D.C. Invests $650K in Needle-Exchange Programs

The city government of Washington, D.C., will spend $650,000 to fund needle-exchange programs to reduce soaring rates of HIV and AIDS infections in the U.S. capital, city officials announced.

BY Matthew Van Atta

January 04 2008 1:00 AM ET

The city
government of Washington, D.C., will spend $650,000 to fund
needle-exchange programs to reduce soaring rates of HIV and
AIDS infections in the U.S. capital, city officials
announced.

A nearly
decade-long congressionally imposed ban on using city money
for such programs was lifted last week when President
George W. Bush signed a federal spending bill. The
programs provide clean hypodermic needles to drug
users in return for their used syringes. HIV can be spread
through needles shared by drug users.

Needle exchange
programs will be a key part of the city's strategy to
reduce the number of new HIV infections, Mayor Adrian Fenty
said Wednesday. The mayor downplayed possible
objections from residents over such programs coming to
their neighborhoods, saying everyone should ''be
concerned'' about the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

''HIV and AIDS
are such well-known public health problems in the District
of Columbia that people understand we have to have programs
and services in the neighborhoods,'' Fenty said.

In 1998, Rep.
Todd Tiahrt and then-senator John Ashcroft, both
Republicans, inserted language in the federal spending
package that blocked the city from funding needle
exchanges. Ashcroft went on to be attorney general
during Bush's first term.

Tiahrt and
Ashcroft cited Canadian studies that suggested the programs
failed to stop HIV from spreading and may have contributed
to a rise in drug overdoses. The authors of the
studies said their report was misinterpreted.

Eleanor Holmes
Norton, the congressional delegate from the nation's
capital, has said the ban contributed to Washington's AIDS
rate, which is higher than any other major city in the
country, according to a recent District of
Columbia report on the epidemic. (AP)

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