Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) said recently he will make it a priority to push for the removal of language from a Washington, D.C., appropriations bill that prevents the city from financing needle-exchange programs, the New York Times reports (Urbina, New York Times, 5/29). A federal law signed by former President Clinton in 1998 bans the district government from using local tax money to fund any organization that operates a needle-exchange program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/27/04). District Mayor Adrian Fenty has said that he will provide funds for needle-exchange programs as soon as Congress removes the language, the Times reports.
According to the Times, injection drug use is the second most-common mode of HIV transmission among men in the district and the most common mode among women in the city. Prevention Works!, the district’s only needle-exchange program, is financed through private donations and reaches about one-third of the estimated 9,700 injection drug users in the city, the Times reports. Serrano — who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which handles the district appropriations bill — said it is “improper” that the district cannot fund needle-exchange programs. He added, “It’s politically obscene to have Congress tell the District of Columbia that it can’t use local funds for something like needle-exchange programs, which have been proven to have major effect on fighting a deadly disease.”
In 2005, the district recorded 128.4 new AIDS cases per 100,000 residents, compared with the national average of 13.7 new cases per 100,000 residents, according to CDC data that compares the district to states rather than other cities. More than 200 needle-exchange programs are in operation nationwide, and about half are funded with city or state money, according to the North American Syringe Exchange Network