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Mark Souder, a conservative Republican U.S. representative from Indiana, is protesting the Department of Health and Human Services' sponsorship of a conference examining the link between methamphetamine use and HIV risks because the conference promotes a harm-reduction approach to meth use and doesn't outright condemn drug use, TheWashington Times reports. Souder on Friday sent an angry letter to HHS secretary Mike Leavitt, saying the conference's harm-reduction messages undermine federal antidrug policies. "That Administration officials from your department are consulting with harm reduction advocates and sponsoring conferences controlled by the harm reduction network completely undermines the work of the president, the Congress, and the men and women who work in law enforcement across the nation who are trying desperately to fight the meth epidemic," Souder wrote, according to the Times.
Harm-reduction programs provide injection-drug users with clean needles and support methadone therapy to help reduce the risks of transmission of blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis through the sharing of drug paraphernalia. They also attempt to educate drug users on how to minimize their health risks if they do continue to use illegal drugs.
The conference, organized by the Harm Reduction Project and sponsored by HHS, is scheduled for August 19-20 in Salt Lake City. HHS awarded $3,000 in travel scholarships to participants, according to the Times. Other government agencies sponsoring the conference include the Utah Department of Health, the Utah State Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and the California Department of Health Services.