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 efforts. ``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.