Pubdate: Thu, 22 Oct 1998
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1998 Associated Press.
Author: The Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hit with a congressional ban on funds for its
needle-exchange program, an AIDS clinic in the nation's capital has
set up a private group to distribute clean needles to drug addicts.

Congress, as part of the $520 billion spending package signed into law
Wednesday, banned use of local and federal funding for any
needle-exchange program in the District of Columbia. That was on top
of a ban on federal funding of needle exchanges anywhere in the country.

The Whitman-Walker Clinic, which gets $7 million a year in federal and
local government dollars, has operated a clean-needle exchange for
three years with privately raised money. Last month, its van
distributed 17,000 needles.

The clinic, one of the nation's largest, has created a private,
nonprofit group to run the program, transferring equipment, supplies
and $50,000 in private funds to the new operation. The
Washington-based Drug Policy Foundation gave the new group, Prevention
Works Inc., an additional $25,000.

``Sounds like they've got some pretty sharp lawyers,'' Rep. Todd
Tiahrt, R-Kan., who sponsored the ban, said Thursday.

Prevention Works should have enough resources to keep the
needle-exchange van running for four or five more months, said Jim
Graham, Whitman-Walker's executive director, who is running for City

``This law is intrusive,'' Graham said. ``It not only tells D.C. how
we can spend our own local tax dollars, but it tells charities like
Whitman-Walker how we can spend private funds.''

Needle exchanges programs are operating in about 100 U.S. cities.
Supporters say such programs help prevent the spread of AIDS by
allowing addicts to exchange contaminated needles for clean ones.
Opponents contend the programs encourage drug abuse.

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Checked-by: Rich O'Grady