by Ben Carter, NMAC Communications Specialist
News of Congress’ budget debate is on the rise again, and while we’ve heard the calls from lawmakers about the need to “defund Obamacare” or to “avoid a government shutdown”, one thing isn’t being called for that would secure impactful gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and that’s the call to end the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs.
Syringe exchange is a straightforward, HIV prevention tool. It allows drug injection users to swap out dirty needles for clean ones to prevent the transmission of HIV and other blood borne diseases during the course of drug use. Many versions of such programs have also shown to be very effective gateways to rehab and recovery for drug users.
This issue is of particular concern to minority communities. African-Americans made up just over 48 percent of new HIV diagnoses among injection drug users in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Latinos made up 26 percent.
Despite this reality, Congress has continuously reapproved the ban, and with it, removed states’ ability to fight their local HIV/AIDS epidemics as they see fit.
Congress’ recent habit of balancing America’s checkbook at the last minute is approaching again. Congress must act by October 1st to approve what’s called a “continuing resolution”, or the continual funding of the government. On October 1st, Congress is expected to approve all government-funding levels for the following two and a half months, and with it, approve all current laws and guidelines. This includes reapproving the ban on federal funds being used for syringe exchange programs.
The National Minority AIDS Council, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, as well as several other HIV/AIDS and advocacy organizations are active participants in a coalition working to end this ban. NMAC, amfAR and others work to take the voice of our community to the halls of Congress so they understand their voters want the ban on using federal funds for syringe exchange programs, to end.
You can help by signing the petition to “End the Ban”. Lend your voice to this cause and we promise, for every new 250 signatures, we’ll visit your states’ elected officials to push for an end to the ban.
We can’t afford to continue to prevent states from using federal funds to enact programming that would help curb the spread of HIV. We cannot continue to allow Congress to decide for states what they will and won’t allow when it comes to fighting HIV.
Join Us. Sign the petition to “End the Ban”.