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AIDS Action Applauds Introduction of a New Bill Allowing Federal Funds to Support Syringe Exchange Programs

WASHINGTON, July 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, July 30th, Representative Jose Serrano (D-NY) introduced the Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention Act, a bill which, if passed, will remove all legal barriers to States and local jurisdictions to spend federal funding that they receive for prevention of diseases directly on syringe exchange. Syringe exchanges are a method of HIV prevention which helps intravenous drug users obtain clean syringes in order to prevent sharing syringes that are potentially infected with HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and other bloodborne diseases. A letter with 147 local and national, community, substance abuse, viral hepatitis, HIV, syringe exchange, and public health organizations, as varied as The Episcopal Church, the Office of Communicable Disease Control and Epidemiology in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, the Hispanic Federation and many more, was also released in support of the bill (see attached).

"If passed this bill will ensure that states and local communities will be able to make their own decisions about preventing HIV and hepatitis C based on the scientific evidence without political interference from the federal government, said Ronald Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of AIDS Action. "Since there are more than 200 communities throughout the United States that already rely on syringe exchange programs with little problem, this is a welcome development."

Eight federally funded research reports concluded that needle and syringe programs, as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention that reduces HIV transmission without increasing the use of illicit drugs. Research has also shown that syringe programs are important in preventing hepatitis C transmission. The federal government certified in 1998 that syringe exchange reduces the transmission of HIV infections and does not raise the level of drug abuse. Transmission of HIV related to intravenous drug use continues to be a major issue. In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, there were nearly 16,000 HIV/AIDS cases were reported, representing approximately 17% of the epidemic.

Introduction of the bill is an important signal that Congress is ready to begin talking about ensuring that the United States enacts the most effective, evidence based HIV and hepatitis C prevention programs possible. Congress indicated some readiness for this issue by passing a law that removed a ban on the District of Columbia's use of its own local tax funds for syringe exchange in December 2007. The use of federal funding for syringe exchange has been banned since 1988 in various forms.

"AIDS Action applauds and thanks Representative Serrano and all of the other original cosponsors of this bill," said Johnson. "Preventing HIV infection through syringe exchange is a truly non-partisan issue that deserves careful review and support from all Members of Congress. We urge all Representatives to sign on as co-sponsors and commit the U.S. to following an evidence-based prevention program."

AIDS Action strives to end the HIV epidemic by advancing public policies that prevent new infections, provide care for people living with HIV, and support the search for a cure. AIDS Action serves as the national voice for AIDS service organizations, health departments, and a diverse network of community-based organizations across the country that provide services for people living with or affected by HIV infection.

The following support letter is from 147 organizations across the U.S.:

July 30, 2008

The Honorable Jose E. Serrano

U.S. House of Representatives

2227 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515-3216

Dear Mr. Serrano:

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our sincere thanks and support for your efforts to combat the HIV/AIDS and hepatitis epidemic through introduction of the Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention Act of 2008. Providing sterile syringes is a simple, cost-effective method of saving lives.

Intravenous drug use remains a major contributor to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2006, 20% of the reported AIDS cases were attributed directly or indirectly to injection drug use. Since the beginning of the epidemic, almost 400,000 people have become infected with HIV through contaminated injection drug equipment.

By allowing federal dollars to fund Syringe Exchange Programs, the Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention Act of 2008 will save thousands of lives. Communities will be enabled to determine which scientifically proven prevention methods are best suited to serve their own epidemic without unwarranted restrictions by the federal government. Syringe Exchange Programs already exist in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, where they serve as a proven method of preventing the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C without increasing the use of injection drugs in the communities they serve. A 2005 international review and eight additional Federally funded research reports concluded that syringe exchange programs, as a part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention that reduces HIV transmission without increasing the use of illicit drugs. Moreover, these programs serve as a bridge to treatment for drug addiction.

The Community AIDS and Hepatitis Prevention Act of 2008 is a truly non-partisan issue and we encourage all Members of Congress to sign on as a co-sponsor. Again, we thank you for your continued efforts to fight HIV/AIDS and hepatitis and join you in urging the swift passage of this life-saving legislation.

ACORN: A Community Resource Network Lebanon, NH

ACT UP Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA

AIDS Action Baltimore, Inc. Baltimore, MD

AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts Boston, MA

AIDS Action Council Washington, DC

AIDS Alabama Birmingham, AL

AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth and Families Washington, DC

AIDS Foundation of Chicago Chicago, IL

AIDS/HIV Health Alternatives North Hollywood, CA

AIDS Project Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA

AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin Milwaukee, WI

AIDS Support Network and SLO Hepatitis C Project San Luis Obispo, CA

AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland Cleveland, OH

AIDS Treatment Data Network New York, NY

ALERT Health Miami, FL

American Academy of HIV Medicine Washington, DC

American Civil Liberties Union Washington, DC

American Health Services Van Nuys, CA

American Psychological Association Washington, DC

American Social Health Association Research Triangle, NC

amfAR The Foundation for AIDS Research New York, NY

Arizona Hepatitis C Coalition Phoenix, AZ

Asian American Drug Abuse Program, Inc. Los Angeles, CA

Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum San Francisco, CA

Association of Nurses in AIDS Care Akron, OH

Baart Programs Los Angeles, CA

Blue Mountain Heart to Heart Walla Walla, WA

California Hepatitis Alliance Sacramento, CA

Caring Ambassadors Program, Inc. Vancouver, WA

Cascade AIDS Project Portland, OR

Center Link Washington, DC

Chicago Recovery Alliance Chicago, IL Oakland, CA

Common Ground Santa Monica, CA

Community Education Group Washington, DC

Community Health Action of Staten Island New York, NY

Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project New York, NY

Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network Des Moines, IA

Community Impact, Inc. Yazoo City, MS

Drug Policy Alliance New York, NY

Education for Health Choices Sacramento, CA

Entre Hermanos Seattle, WA

Families & Youth, Inc. Las Cruces, NM

Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus Ft Lauderdale, FL

F.O.U.N.D. Los Angeles, CA

Foundation for Research on Sexually

Transmitted Diseases, Inc. New York, NY

Gay Men's Health Crisis New York, NY

Georgia AIDS Coalition Snellville, GA

Global Conference on Methamphetamine London, GB

Harlem United Community AIDS Center, Inc New York, NY

Harm Reduction Coalition New York, NY

Harm Reduction Center of Southern Oregon Roseburg, OR

Harm Reduction Institute Indianapolis, IN

Harm Reduction Services Sacramento, CA

Health Global Access Project New York, NY

Hep C Connection Denver, CO

HepCmeditations Project Seattle, WA

Hep Help Alliance of New Jersey, Inc Lanoka Harbor, NJ

Hepatitis C Association Scotch Plains, NJ

Hepatitis Education Project Seattle, WA

Hispanic Federation New York, NY

HIVictorious, Inc. Madison, WI

Homeless Health Care Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA

Housing Works Washington, DC

Howard Brown Health Center Chicago, IL

Human Rights Campaign Washington, DC

Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative Washington, DC

International AIDS Empowerment El Paso, TX

International Center for Advancement of

Addiction Treatment New York, NY

Internet Interventions Incorporated Chelsea, MA

JRI Health Boston, MA

Justice Policy Institute Washington, DC

Latino Commission on AIDS New York, NY

Legacy Community Health Services Houston, TX

Legal Action Center Washington, DC

Lifelong AIDS Alliance Seattle, WA

Liver Health Today Houston, TX

LiverHope Minnetonka, MN

Office of Communicable Disease Control and

Epidemiology, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Los Angeles, CA

Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center New York, NY

Maryland Hepatitis C Action Baltimore, MD

Maryland Viral Hepatitis Task Force Baltimore, MD

Mendocino County AIDS Network Ukiah, CA

Minnesota AIDS Project Minneapolis, MN

Missouri Hepatitis C Alliance Columbia, MO

Monmouth & Ocean County Hepatitis C Coalition, Inc. Shrewsbury, NJ

Nashville CARES Nashville, TN

National AIDS Fund Washington, DC

National Alliance of State & Territorial

AIDS Directors Washington, DC

NAACP: Ft. Lauderdale Branch Ft. Lauderdale, FL

National Association of County and City Health

Officials Washington, DC

National Association of People with AIDS Silver Spring, MD

National Black Police Association Washington, DC

National Center for Transgender Equality Washington, DC

National Council of Jewish Women Washington, DC

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund Washington, DC

National Minority AIDS Council Washington, DC

National Stonewall Democrats Washington, DC

National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable Decatur, GA

Needle Exchange Emergency Distribution Berkeley, CA

New Mexico Hepatitis C Alliance Albuquerque, NM

New York AIDS Coalition New York, NY

New York Harm Reduction Educators, Inc. Bronx, NY

North American Syringe Exchange Network Tacoma, WA

November Coalition Colville, WA

NYC AIDS Housing Network Brooklyn, NY

Office of AIDS Administration Oakland, CA

Ohio Inner City Support for Hepatitis C Cleveland, OH

Okaloosa AIDS Support and Informational

Services, Inc. Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Open Society Policy Center Washington, DC

Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation San Francisco, CA

Peer Assistance Services, Inc. Denver, CO

Physicians for Human Rights Washington, DC

Pierce County AIDS Foundation Tacoma, WA

Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast

Texas, Inc. Houston, TX

Positive Health Project, Inc. New York, NY

Portland Overdose Prevention Project Portland, OR

Prairie Psychological Services Oak Park, IL

PreventionWorks! Washington, DC

Professional Nursing Alliance Snellville, GA

Project Inform San Francisco, CA

Projecto Sol Filadelphia Philadelphia, PA

Reality House, Inc. New York, NY

Recovery Options Los Angeles, CA

Safer Alternatives thru Networking & Education Sacramento, CA

San Francisco AIDS Foundation San Francisco, CA

SISTAHS Today, Inc. Miami, FL

St. Ann's Corner of Harm Reduction Bronx, New York

Status C Unknown New York, NY

Students for Sensible Drug Policy Washington, DC

Tarzana Treatment Center Lancaster, CA

The AIDS Institute Washington, DC

The Center for HIV Law and Policy New York, NY

The Drop-in Center Denver, CO

The Episcopal Church Washington, DC

Title II Community AIDS National Network Washington, DC

Trans Equality LA Los Angeles, CA

Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Treatment Action Group New York, NY

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations Washington, DC

Upstate New York Hepatitis C Awareness Project Delhi, NY

Urban Coalition of HIV/AIDS Prevention Services Washington, DC

Vermont Harm Reduction Coalition Brattleboro, VT

VOCAL-NY Users Union Brooklyn, NY

Western Pacific Med/Corp Glendale, CA

Women at Risk Culver City, CA

Women's HIV Collaborative New York, NY

CONTACT: Diego Sanchez, APR of AIDS Action, +1-617-450-1524, Cell: +1-617-835-1455,

Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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