Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA) Contact: http://www.examiner.com/ Pubdate: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 PELOSI BLASTS FED POLICY AGAINST NEEDLE EXCHANGE Cites S.F. program in anti-AIDS appeal for HHS funds WASHINGTON - A coalition of House Democrats and health experts urged the Clinton administration Friday to lift a ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs when a moratorium ends next week. Last year's Health and Human Services appropriation bill gave HHS Secretary Donna Shalala authority to lift the moratorium on March 31, if the department determines the exchange programs are effective in reducing the spread of HIV and do not encourage the use of illegal drugs. "The administration now has the science, the support and the authority to move ahead with this life-saving intervention," said Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. "Secretary Shalala should exercise her authority and immediately lift the ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs." The representatives credited San Francisco's needle exchange program, among 100 programs in 40 states nationwide, with saving numerous lives by reducing the spread of HIV through shared needles. About one-third of reported AIDS cases were related to intravenous drug use as of June 1996, said Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma. "Congresswoman Pelosi and I are lucky to come from a place - the San Francisco Bay Area - where people truly understand that when we are talking about AIDS we are talking about an epidemic, not someone's narrow-minded cultural war." Support for needle exchange programs has grown in recent years. Last year the National Institutes of Health published a consensus statement on HIV intervention, throwing its support behind the programs. "There is no longer doubt that these programs work," said the statement, which also addressed whether they increase drug use. "A preponderance of evidence shows either no change or decreased drug use." Clinton drug czar Barry McCaffrey has opposed the program, saying the drug use effects need more study. However, a 32-member White House advisory panel on AIDS faulted the administration in December for failing to push for the removal of the federal fund ban on needle exchanges. Pelosi said needle-exchange programs not only save lives but are cost-effective. "One needle costs 10 cents versus $100,000 in care for a person with AIDS," said Pelosi.