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Outbreak of HIV, Hepatitis Tests US Policy on Needle Exchanges

Despite ample health research showing that needle exchanges can reduce the spread of disease, the ban on federal funding of these programs has remained mostly intact since 1988.
In 1988, arch-conservative Senator Jesse Helms successfully pushed Congress to prohibit federal dollars from being used to distribute sterile syringes to intravenous drug users, equating an effort meant to slow the spread of AIDS and other diseases to federal endorsement of drug abuse.

Mr Helms, a North Carolina Republican, fretted that the ban would not last since it could be lifted if the surgeon general certified that needle exchanges were effective. He need not have worried. Despite ample health research showing that such programs can reduce the spread of disease, the ban on federal funding of needle exchanges has remained intact except for some easing when Democrats controlled the budget process for 2010 and 2011.

Now, with a severe outbreak of HIV and hepatitis due to a surge in heroin use in states including Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia, the question of whether to let federal money support needle exchanges is back.

Read more at The New York Times: http://nyti.ms/1KeHKvz

 
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