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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

New Conservative Support for Needle Exchanges

A recent outbreak of AIDS and Hepatitis C has led a number of conservative lawmakers to change their long held beliefs about the importance of needle exchanges in their home states, The New York Times reports. Intravenous drug use is a major problem, a rise in heroin use across the country and IV prescription opioid use has resulted in increased rates of disease transmission. This problem could be mitigated if addicts had greater access to clean needles.

Traditionally, House Republicans have had a tough stance on needle exchanges, banning them outright. However, as states grapple with increased IV drug use which has resulted in the outbreak of disease, such as Kentucky and Indiana, the need for needle exchanges becomes more apparent.

Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, a Republican, recently reversed his position of banning needle exchanges, allowing such programs in parts of his state, according to the article. Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, a Republican, was always an opponent to needle exchanges, but with the rise in IV heroin use in his district, a change in position was warranted.

“I would count this cautiously as a win,” said Daniel Raymond, Policy Director for the Harm Reduction Coalition, an advocacy group focused on health issues related to drug use. “I think that Congress is listening, including members from red states and purple states.”

A proposed bill put before the house would give officials the power to use federal grant money to provide support for state and local drug treatment programs that include needle exchanges. Although, the House annual health spending measure would still prohibit the use of federal dollars to buy sterile needles or syringes, the article reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have both recommended needle exchange programs.

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