Source: Reuter 6/24/97

U.S. mayors blast federal needle exchange fund ban

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuter)  U.S. mayors Tuesday called on the federal government
to free up funding for controversial needle exchange programs to stem the
spread of HIV among intravenous drug users. 

The resolution, adopted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors at its meeting in
San Francisco, urged Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala to
let state and local public health officials use federal money for the

``The federal ban on funding for needle exchange impedes states and local
communities from implementing HIV prevention strategies that have been
scientifically proven effective,'' the resolution said. 

Needle exchange programs have been controversial since the idea surfaced
early in the AIDS epidemic, when it became clear that drug users were at high
risk of contracting HIV and spreading it to their sexual partners and unborn

Critics of needle exchanges have charged that it is tantamount to sanctioning
intravenous drug use and that it would aggravate the drug problem in the
United States. 

In its resolution, the Conference of Mayors cited recent studies that
concluded that needle exchange programs reduce HIV transmission and do not
increase drug use. 

``The clock is ticking,'' the resolution warned. 

Needle exchange advocates hailed the resolution, which was sponsored by San
Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. 

``It is one of the most costeffective means of serving difficulttoreach
individuals at highest risk for HIV,'' said Pat Christen, executive director
of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.