Needle Exchanges Could Be Limited Under Congressional Bill

The New York Times reports on federal legislation that could limit needle exchanges. "A bill working its way through Congress would lift a ban of more than 20 years on using federal money for needle exchange programs. But the bill would also ban federally financed exchanges from being within 1,000 feet of a school, park, library, college, video arcade or any place children might gather — a provision that would apply to a majority of the country's approximately 200 exchanges." A separate bill would ban exchanges within the 1,000-foot perimeter from receiving city money as well.

"Both bills have passed the House and a Senate subcommittee and await Senate action. Advocates and organizations including the N.A.A.C.P. are lobbying Congress to kill the 1,000-foot provisions. The promise of federal money could not come at a better time, these officials say, as states are cutting their health and human services budgets and private donations are dropping precipitously. At least four needle exchanges have closed this year because of a lack of financing." A 2004 report by the World Health Organization found that exchanges reduce H.I.V. transmission and "cited studies showing that the rate of infection dropped up to 18 percent in cities with an exchange." But, "Officials at exchanges in cities like Chicago, New York and Washington say there are few, if any, places that could house a needle exchange under the rule" (Zezima, 11/8).

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