Lifting ban on federal funding of syringe programs would save lives and tax dollars [Letter]

December 18, 2013

I would like to underscore Chris Beyrer's recent commentary calling for lifting the U.S. ban on use of federal funds for syringe services programs, or SSPs ("End the senseless syringe funding ban," Dec. 11).

SSPs benefit our communities by preventing new HIV infections, reducing needle stick injuries to law enforcement and saving taxpayer dollars. The SSP in Baltimore alone has served over 14,000 injection drug users and referred about 2,300 SSP users to treatment programs in its first 12 years of operation. By safely disposing of used (and potentially contaminated) needles, SSPs promote public safety for not only the general public, but also law enforcement agents and first responders. Additionally, there is the potential for SSPs to save billions of taxpayer dollars nationwide by preventing HIV infections among injection drug users, many of whom would be reliant on public sector programs for HIV treatment and care.

Now that they have reached a budget deal, Congress will have another opportunity to remove the ban on federal funds for SSPs and let local officials decide how to use federal resources to fight HIV/AIDS. As a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore City, I support U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski's leadership on lifting the ban on use of federal funds for SSPs. It would be a big win for the fight against HIV/AIDS, as well as marginalized populations, taxpayers and law enforcement in the U.S. for Congress to repeal the ban.

Erica Kuhlik, Washington, D.C.

The writer is the Allan Rosenfield HIV/AIDS policy fellow at the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

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