Ed. Note: This post was updated at 6:10 pm
On December 16, 2009, President Obama signed into law an end to the longstanding ban on most Federal funding for needle exchange programs, giving us more opportunities to stop the spread of HIV and other infections among injecting drug users (IDUs). The Administration continues to support a consistent policy that would allow Federal funds to be used in locations where local authorities deem needle exchange programs to be effective and appropriate. Unfortunately, Congress has reinstated the ban.
As noted in the President’s National Drug Control Strategy, we will continue to work with Congress and public health agencies to ensure that, to the extent possible, needle exchange programs are implemented in the context of comprehensive, recovery-oriented public health systems that also offer IDUs treatment for addiction, other medical care, and testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C. On a global scale, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) continues to work with governments worldwide on synchronizing drug control and HIV prevention and treatment. In combating the problem, special attention has been paid to comprehensive HIV prevention services for IDUs that include providing HIV prevention education. The recommended core package of comprehensive HIV prevention services for IDUs includes needle and syringe programs; drug treatment (including medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence); HIV testing and counseling; antiretroviral therapy for HIV-positive IDUs; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections; condom programs for IDUs and their sexual partners; targeted information, education, and communication for IDUs and their sexual partners; vaccination, diagnosis, and treatment of viral hepatitis; and diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis.