On AIDS Awareness Day, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today asked Congress to fund needle-exchange programs to cut the spread of HIV.
Here’s the letter: “The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic ravaging our country and the recent outbreak of HIV and hepatitis in the Midwest underscore a federal policy that is failing our public health system. The time has come for Congress to reverse its ban on funding syringe exchange programs. Infected needles result in 3,000 to 5,000 transmissions of HIV each year and an estimated 10,000 transmissions of the hepatitis C virus in the United States. People who inject drugs make up eight percent of new HIV infections in the United States, and over 60 percent of new hepatitis C (HCV) infections, an emerging epidemic in young people. Syringe exchange programs are a proven and cost-effective approach for preventing transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis among people who inject drugs. Data supports that these programs promote public health and safety by taking syringes off the streets. They also help protect law enforcement personnel from needle stick injuries, which can result in the transmission of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. Connecticut, a state with legal syringe since 1992, has seen a steep decline in HIV cases among injection drug users. Injection drug use risk represented almost 40 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases in 2002, and only 8.5 percent of newly diagnosed cases in 2013. The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors recently named a fellowship in honor of Beth Weinstein, who served as the AIDS Director for the Connecticut Department of Public Health from 1987-2002. She helped usher in the law that led to one of the first syringe exchange programs in the United States. Because of Ms. Weinstein’s leadership, Connecticut’s syringe exchange program has saved thousands of lives. Still the need for these services is great. The current ban on use of federal funds for syringe exchange limits the success of state funded public health initiatives like Connecticut’s syringe exchange program. I urge you to work with your colleagues in Congress to reverse this ban and support the use of federal funds for syringe exchange.
Dannel P. Malloy