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Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama Drops a Long-standing Ban on Federal Funding of Needle Exchange Programs

Ban Federal Funding Needle Exchange
Significant progress has been made in the battle against diseases spread intravenously. It has been an ongoing struggle to provide I.V. drug users the ability to acquire clean needles. In many cases people in metropolitan areas are typically hit hard by A.I.D.S and Hepatitis C because of the lack of needle exchanges and the need of a prescription to get needles from a pharmacy; despite the fact that there are detailed studies proving that cities that implement needle exchange programs have less people contracting diseases. In a 2007 report conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 424,000 Americans a year over age 12 inject illegal drugs. "The omnibus appropriations bill that President Obama signed last week drops a long-standing ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs. And the Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy three months ago lifted the requirement for a prescription to buy syringes at a pharmacy, leaving New Jersey and Delaware as the only states still requiring a script", according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Now, needle exchange programs can apply for funding from AIDS prevention programs which will certainly increase the amount of exchanges available.

This is a great step and it shows that people are beginning to understand the complex nature of addiction and how is affects all aspects of society. A person in the grips of their addiction will find a way to use no matter what; a dirty needle will do the same job as a clean needle. Providing addicts the ability to use without the risk of disease is a big step, it reflects the idea that the addict is not by default a criminal, but rather, a sick individual. Between 2002 and 2004 when comparing Newark NJ where exchanges were not present and you needed a prescription to acquire syringes, with New York City where both were present, "Rates of HIV were 26 percent in Newark vs. 5 percent in New York; hepatitis B, 70 percent vs. 27 percent; and hepatitis C, 82 percent vs. 53 percent", the Journal of Urban Health reported.

Changes like this one are a huge leap forward for those who have been trying to provide a safe way for those who will get high no matter what. It will also afford counselors the opportunity to help steer people going to the exchanges towards treatment; addicts who normally would be impossible to contact will now be close enough to potentially reach and get them the help that they desperately need.

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