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Housing Works calls on the Obama Administration to Lift the Federal Ban on Syringe Exchange Funding
Congress has begun taking the steps necessary to lift this ban and Housing Works is calling on the Administration speak forcefully both publicly and in behind the scenes negotiations at conference for language that fully lifts the ban without placing restrictions that should be managed at the state and territorial level. Since 1989, Congress has prevented the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs (SEPs), allowing use of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill and other legal provisions as a means for carrying out the prohibition. Numerous studies have proven that SEPs are cost-effective, save lives, do not promote drug use, and provide a conduit to primary health care for hard to reach populations. Annually, nearly 8,000 Americans contract HIV/AIDS and approximately 12,000 Americans contract the hepatitis C virus directly or indirectly from sharing contaminated syringes. According to the Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR) and the Harm Reduction Coalition, more than 200 syringes exchanges are operating in 36 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. For all of these reasons, Housing Works joins the HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis communities asking that the ban be lifted in all U.S. laws and policies. There are two primary means of achieving that goal: Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill Each year, a ban on federal funding for the use of syringe exchange programs is included in the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill. In 2007, Congress lifted the ban on local funding of SEPs in Washington, DC (H.R. 2764). Housing Works is calling on Congress to remove the ban from the appropriations bill allowing federal HIV/AIDS and hepatitis prevention funding allocated to the Centers for Disease Control to be used for syringe exchange. Removal of the federal ban would result in significant reductions of new HIV and hepatitis C infections and substantial savings in HIV and hepatitis treatment costs in Medicaid, Medicare, and discretionary systems like the Ryan White Care Act. No community would be forced to create a syringe exchange program. The Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention (CAHP) Act The CAHP Act (H.R. 179) was introduced by Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY) on January 6, 2009. The CAHP Act states that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, all barriers prohibiting the use of federal funding for syringe exchange programs shall be removed. Housing Works is calling on Congress to pass of the CAHP Act which will supersede the language of the AIDS Amendments to the Health Omnibus Extension Act of 1988 and the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990 and empower local communities to decide for themselves whether utilizing SEPs is best suited for their local epidemics.1