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AIDS Action Welcomes President's Budget Increases Yet Expresses Distress With Failure to End Federal Ban on Syringe Exchange Funding

WASHINGTON, May 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In his Fiscal Year 2010 (FY 10) budget request, President Barack Obama increased funding for HIV prevention and treatment and care by $107 million. In doing so, President Obama has put funding behind the vision set forth in his FY 10 budget outline of increasing "resources to detect, prevent, and treat HIV/AIDS domestically, especially in underserved populations."

"This is good news for the U.S., especially for people living with HIV/AIDS, those who are at risk and their families," said Rebecca Haag, Executive Director of AIDS Action in response to the budget increases. "For too many years the previous administration ignored the ongoing severity of the domestic HIV epidemic, failed to increase funding for prevention and did not keep up with the epidemic in treatment and care."

In his FY10 budget, President Obama requests an additional $54 million of funding for the Ryan White Program to help pay for the care and treatment of over 500,000 individuals living with HIV in the United States. The President's budget includes a $53 million increase for HIV prevention and surveillance services within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP). This funding will assist DHAP in increasing the reach of HIV prevention programs in communities of color and for men who have sex with men (MSM), where the HIV epidemic continues to grow. This funding will also help to identify the 20% of those who are HIV positive and unaware of their status. In response to this specific increase Rebecca Haag stated, "It is gratifying to know that we have an Administration that understands the importance of increased funding for prevention programs across the nation, as we work to decrease the number of newly infected with HIV in the United States."

Despite the positive news regarding increased funding for HIV/AIDS, AIDS Action is extremely disappointed that the Administration failed to remove language that forbids the use of federal funding for syringe exchange programs. Syringe exchange has been repeatedly shown to effectively reduce HIV/AIDS and hepatitis transmission among injecting drug users and to connect them to other health care services, without increasing drug abuse within communities. In an era of spiraling health care costs, lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs would yield significant cost savings. Had syringe exchange programs been widely implemented at the beginning of the epidemic, approximately 354,000 HIV infections could have been averted, saving billions of dollars in treatment costs.

The failure to remove the ban is at odds with President Obama's commitment to evidence- based policy, his campaign pledge to end the federal ban, and the Administration's recent support of syringe exchange in a statement to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in February. "We are disappointed that President Obama has not taken this opportunity to support syringe exchange programs, which have the potential to save thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer dollars," said Joseph Interrante, CEO of Nashville CARES and Chairman of the AIDS Action Council Board. "AIDS Action will continue to work with Congressional allies to remove the ban on federal funding of syringe exchange programs."

AIDS Action is encouraged that the Administration will continue its focus on domestic HIV by fulfilling its pledge to develop a National AIDS Strategy (NAS). "A National AIDS Strategy will ensure that governmental agencies and resources will work to reduce HIV incidence, increase access to care, and address disparities. The President's budget request is an important step in accomplishing these goals. We call on Congress to build on the President's vision," said Haag.

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.

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