Syringe access programs save lives and money but US Congress voted to ban fed assistance


Tony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance says:

Millions of people have died of AIDS because of bad drug policy – and millions more lives hang in the balance.

The International AIDS Conference will be held in the U. S. for the first time in 22 years this July 22-27, in Washington DC. Activists, public health professionals, and distinguished world leaders are mobilizing in Washington with a clear message: the criminalization of people who use drugs – and especially backward government policies that restrict syringe access – are driving the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that drug criminalization forces people who use drugs away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risks become significantly elevated. Mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic, as inhumane conditions and lack of HIV prevention or treatment measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks and AIDS cases behind bars – and among families and communities once those imprisoned are released.

Yet in countries where addiction is treated as a health issue, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being won. New HIV infections in countries such as Australia, Germany and Switzerland have been virtually eliminated among people who use drugs, just as mother-to-child HIV transmission has been eliminated in countries that make medicines for pregnant women accessible.

In the United States, however, the federal government has resisted evidence-based HIV prevention strategies – costing us hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Congress re-instated a longstanding ban last December that prohibits using federal funds for syringe access programs – a move that will cost thousands of more lives in years to come.

Want to know more about the drug war and AIDS? Check out the infographic and take action by urging Congress to end the syringe access funding ban.



  1. But think of the lost conservative vote!  The political ads!

    “Firstname McCandidate  funded a federal program to give drug users their syringes.  Some say he must be a drug dealer himself.  Why else would a candidate  support funding for handing out drug paraphernalia and enable the cancer that is addiction to spread?  Call McCandidate today and let him know you’re against drug use.  Paid for by Freedom for the Freeing of Free Persons Happy Time.”

  2. That’s what you get when uneducated, reactionary mouthbreathers vote uneducated, reactionary mouthbreathers into office.

    America, Fuck Yeah.

  3. Thank god instead of spending money preventing the public health nightmare that comes from sharing needles, we can instead spend orders of magnitude more treating AIDS and various and sundry other diseases in the indigent.   Conservative Jesus will be pleased.

    (Anyone else think conservative Jesus just might be Khorne the blood god?)

  4. Chance we could get a better link to the infographic? Its just a tiny blip in that link.. 

  5. I find myself in a difficult place – where I have seen the studies and statistics and I believe syringe programs absolutely are a valid and ultimately effective use of tax dollars – BUT – I think the most appropriate and effective way of administering such a program is at the local or State level, and most definitely NOT at the Federal level (because I believe the Federal Government should actually be limited to it’s enumerated powers).

    Given this position, nearly all of my opinions require a dinner or at least a round of drinks to discuss.  Anti-drug/small government conservatives shut down when I talk about publicly funded needle programs, but just the same – big government/pro-personal-freedom liberals shut down as soon as I mention ‘enumerated powers’.

    Anybody want to grab dinner?

      1.  I have a feeling that I’d wind up harshing his mellow real hard.  I’ve got little tolerance for politicians (and voters, to a much much lesser extent) who don’t care about principles and forcing our governments to follow their own rules.

  6. It’s the obsession with punishment that pervades American government. They’d rather spend millions creating suffering than thousands preventing it.

  7. “Syringe access” doesn’t require any tax money.  It just requires the government to stop banning possession of clean syringes as “drug paraphrenalia”, so junkies can not only buy them in drug stores the way diabetics do, but also carry them on the street without harassment from the police (which is apparently a large part of the reason US junkies end up with shared needles at shooting galleries instead of buying drugs they can shoot up at home.) 

    I think it’s going to be a long time before we can convince the Drug Warriors to give up their War, especially on the more dangerous drugs, but we might be able to get them to stop using some tactics that have been extremely bad for society and aren’t part of their core mission, and this is one of them.  Drug laws were supposed to be to protect the public from dangerous drugs, and while it’s fun for cops to have an excuse to bust dangerous criminals like Tommy Chong for selling bongs, the anti-needle laws have caused a lot of HIV and other diseases like hepatitis to spread beyond drug users and into the general population.  It’s making the public health much worse, and they could stop having those laws without giving up on keeping heroin illegal.

    There will have to be casualties if we are to win!
    Besides the profiteers would stop giving us money if we reduced the new fodder for their drugs, so what if we shift those costs onto regular people… its not OUR money.

    The sound bite sounds better when we say we refuse to fund these programs wasting money on addicts!… and no one asks how much more it costs all of us to care for people that this program would have kept healthy.  That paying a small amount today can avoid huge loses much later, but later is always someone else’s problem.

  9. The problem is the US’s tendency to feel that people who suffer any kind of misfortune are somehow deserving of it. Drug addicts should die of AIDS because they are weak and immoral, poor people should suffer because they are lazy, people without insurance should die of curable diseases because they were irresponsible and so on.

    The flip side of this odd perspective is that rich people and corporations can do no wrong. They can steal, cheat, murder, steal elections, start wars, destroy ecosystems, cause untold suffering, and when they get away with a slap on the wrist, nobody gives a crap. Somehow it seems related to Battered Wife Syndrome, where the wife forgives her oppressor anything because she somehow feels that she brought it on herself.

  10.  With all the politics involved its hard to tell the difference between HELP and HARM. This graphic points to the right direction.

    Helping someone to stay alive is about as basic of a “help” as you can get. Its never a harmful act to aid in the survival of another human being instead of allowing (or insisting) that they die because of their own neglect and compulsions. If a parent acted that way towards his child we would shun that parent for not having the basic parental instincts needed to save his own child.

    We are all children of the earth. Parental responsibilities toward each other as a species separates us from the animals in this very sane activity of caring about each other. Every one of us whether we admit to it or not, travel in the same boat on our life’s journey.

  11. The problem is, the diseases can easily be passed from the junkies to non junkies by way of intermediaries. For quite some time, it was very possible to get HIV/AIDS via blood transfusion because they didn’t screen for it. Same thing is going on here. In fact you could easily use this argument to legitimize prostitution, which it has, and these policies have lead to plummeting crime rates and improved public health.  Another thing that has been tried in several cities, but never in the US due to acceptance issues, are safe injection sites. Which have created a massive boon to public health, and a significant drop in crime rates around the areas they “serve”.

  12.  yeah, it’s not like those sick and dying junkies will ever end up in the ER costing me many times the money we could have spent preventing their HIV with this program. As long as we get to look down our noses at them and tsk, tsk our contempt, what’s a few billion here and there?  And all the collateral damage to the children or anyone who interacts with these junkies? Why, it’s their own fault for being born to the wrong parent or maybe sleeping with an addict who hid their drug problem- a slow, agonizing and expensive death is a quite reasonable punishment for a one time hook up or an accident of birth

  13. Even if you have no ethical qualms, drug addicts don’t tend to die fast enough for your plan to work out…

    Pretty much nothing except a stiff overdose or possibly a gas embolism is going to be immediately lethal, and most of the bloodborns that public health types worry about take their time killing you even if wholly untreated.

    And, given the high costs of having diseased addicts running about(crime, disease transmission to general population, police/judicial/prison time, ER admits, etc.) it is generally cost-effective to do things that keep existing addicts out of trouble as much as possible and as potentially re-habilitatable as possible. 

    Given the obvious failure of our massive and draconian experiment in forbidding the problem away, it seems clear that any attrition-based solution to drug addicts would either have to be crazy draconian(poisoning and redistributing intercepted drugs, shoot-to-kill sweeps by police, that sort of thing) or accompanied by some hithertoo-undiscovered technique for dissuading new users…

Comments are closed.