Today is World AIDS Day.
In 2010, the PC(USA) General Assembly called on us to become and “HIV and AIDS Competent Church,” to engage in programs that “reduce stigma, discrimination, and fear of persons who have been diagnosed as HIV positive,” and to support public policies that promote treatment and prevention. Specifically, the Assembly called for increased federal “funding for critical HIV and AIDS research including research focused on (a) infants and children, (b) the risk behaviors of teenagers and comprehensive sexuality education curriculum for teens, and (c) underreported, indigenous, and special-needs populations.”
An overwhelming consensus of research shows that providing clean syringes (needle exchange programs) to injection drug users is a highly effective way to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, and is credited with reducing the rate of new HIV infections among injection drug users by 80 percent. Additional research shows that syringe exchange programs do not increase the numbers of injection drug users, and reduces long term health care costs that occur with the medical needs of people with HIV and/or Hepatitis C.
But Congress prohibits federal funds that are already being spent on HIV prevention and treatment from being spent on needle exchange programs. Write to your Members of Congress here.
Needle Exchange is one of the key public health interventions that we need to implement a long-term strategy to end AIDS. But in 2012, Congress reinstated the ban on using federal funds for needle exchange programs. The ban on federal funding for syringe exchange was originally adopted in 1989 but was finally lifted by Congress in 2009. Without a discussion or legislative debate, the language was slipped into the spending bill before advocates knew what was happening. Contact Congress and tell them to reverse the ban.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is on the record in support of Needle Exchange Programs – in 2000, the General Assembly approved an overture “advocate[ing]… for lifting the ban on the use of federal funds to support needle exchange programs [and] mandate[ing]… work to remove barriers that keep drug injectors at unnecessary risk for HIV disease and Hepatitis.”
For more information on how to be involved in AIDS ministries, get in touch with the Presbyterian AIDS Network. And download their World AIDS Day packet.
Write to your Member of Congress now to urge lifting the ban on life-saving needle exchange programs.