For Immediate Release
Tuesday, June 24, 1997
San Francisco-- Health educators and AIDS activists expressed disappointment that President Clinton did not indicate his administrations' intention to lift the Federal ban on syringe exchange funding, despite the passage of a resolution today by the US Conference of Mayors urging Health and Human Services Secretary Shalala to do so.
President Clinton, in his remarks to the Conference yesterday, pledged to address the "twin epidemics of substance abuse and AIDS" using "sound public health strategies" in comments which many feel alluded to the mayors' resolution. The President did not mention 'syringe exchange,' or indicate any intention to end restrictions on such programs.
"We applaud the Mayors'stand," said Dennis de Leon, Director of the Latino Commission on AIDS and a member of the National Coalition to Save Lives Now-- "but the President missed an important opportunity to show leadership. He has the authority to save, literally, tens of thousands of lives in the next several years, if he acts decisively." Approximately one third of the AIDS cases in the United States are directly attributable to needle-sharing.
The Mayors' resolution asks that local public health authorities be allowed to use Federal funds to implement syringe exchange programs. Syringe exchange programs continue to gain recognition as an important public health intervention in preventing the spread of AIDS among injection drug users.
Based on the low injection-related AIDS rates in foreign countries with extensive needle and syringe exchange, over the counter needle and syringe access, and expanded prevention services for injecting drug users, the National Coalition to Save Lives Now estimates that 33 American men, women and children are infected with AIDS every day simply because the Federal government refuses to lift the ban on funding syringe exchange programs. AIDS is now the single largest cause of death among black and Latino men and women between the ages of 25 and 44. Over half these deaths are injection-related.
By the end of 1996, almost 100,000 African Americans had injection-related AIDS or had died from it. By the end of 1995, 33,000 Latinos had injection-related AIDS, or had died from it; Among persons who inject drugs, African Americans are four times as likely as whites to be infected with the AIDS virus;Among persons who inject drugs, Latinos are one and a half times as likely as whites to be diagnosed with AIDS;For African Americans, the risk of contracting injection-related AIDS is four times greater than the risk of dying fron an overdose; For Latinos, the risk of contracting AIDS is more than three times greater than the risk of dying from an overdose.
The National Coalition to Save Lives Now is a collaboration of hundreds of organizations nationwide who have signed on to a Call to Action which asks Shalala to lift the ban.
National Coalition to Save Lives Now!
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So the current National AIDS Policy is to allow people to get infected, and then try to figure out a way to pay for their health care. Without even mentioning the Council's scolding of the president on prevention issues, without mentioning the words "needle exchange," Miss Thurman's deeply patronizing retort to the Prez Advisory Council on AIDS points to increases in Ryan White, ADAP, Medicaid and vaccine research. I guess she's calculating that the big payoffs to AIDS, Inc. and the Pharmaceuticals will help everyone ignore the fact that this administration lacks the barest whisp of courage to implement the prevention strategy that every public health official in the country is begging for.
This press release is stupid and insulting. Nothing contributes more to the "political environment in which ideology can overwhelm science" than bullshit like this. Without a realistic prevention strategy which includes comprehensive needle exchange, the ADAP budget will probably have to double again in a couple of years. I guess the White House is shooting for at least a 50% across the board HIV infection rate (the *immoral* half of the population, no doubt). Can you imagine ASO Executive Director's salaries THEN? Can you imagine the portion of the national budget that will roll into the coffers of the Pharmaceutical companies?
The President should be arrested.