Pubdate:  Wed, 20 Aug 1997

	 SAN FRANCISCO (Reuter)  A member of Congress said Wednesday
she is sponsoring legislation to end a ban on federal funding of
needle exchange programs intended to reduce the spread of AIDS
among drug users.

	 U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said she and
Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, have introduced a
bill in Congress that would require the Secretary of Health and
Human Services to make grants to states and counties for needle
exchange programs.

	 The programs make clean hypodermic needles available free of
charge to intravenous drug users. Supporters say such programs
are important in reducing the spread of AIDS (acquired immune
deficiency syndrome) among drug users.

 Opponents, such as California Gov. Pete Wilson, say official
backing for the programs undermines government antidrug

	 ``One needle costs a dime, whereas the lifetime cost of
treating an individual with AIDS is at least $119,000,'' Pelosi
said. ``These programs work and deserve our support.''

	 Pelosi said scientists had taken the lead in making the case
for needle exchange programs to stop the further spread of
AIDS. ``The data are in and the experts agree  it's time to
lift the ban,'' Pelosi said in a statement.

	 Pelosi's office said that when Congress instituted the ban
on federal funding for needle exchanges in 1988, it said the ban
could be lifted when such programs met two conditions: that the
needle exchanges were shown to reduce the spread of HIV, the
virus that causes AIDS, and were not shown to increase illegal
drug use.

	 The American Medical Association had joined the federal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National
Institutes of Health, the General Accounting Office and the
National Academy of Sciences in finding that needle exchange
programs were effective in slowing the spread of HIV, it said.

	 To be eligible for funding under the proposed legislation, a
needle exchange project would have to be part of a larger
program to prevent the further spread of HIV and the program
would need to make referrals for substance abuse treatment and
other medical and social support services.