May 19 2009

Needle_exchange_0511Needle_exchange_0511 Just when you think you don't have to fight certain battles anymore, they raise their ugly heads once again. Needle Exchange programs are just such an issue. It should be a no-brainer. Science has proven that providing clean needles to those on the streets and using illegal drugs has dramatically lowered the number of cases of HIV/AIDS. In many ways, it is this decade's battle like fighting for condom distribution was in the 1980's.

This issue is critical to the battle against HIV/AIDS. It means literally saving thousands of lives, slowing down the spread of the epidemic and saving this nation millions and millions of dollars. It is that simple.

Unfortunately, President Obama has just made our efforts against needle exchange a little harder this past week.

According to Time.com in an article written by Maia Szalavitz, in the budget sent to Congress, on Page 795, the president has left in the ban against federal funds being used for needle exchange. This simple paragraph means that people will die needlessly and the epidemic will continue to spread in communities where the most vulnerable and economically disadvantaged reside. It is an unconscionable act.

Szalavitz writes in the article:

"The Administration says no. Responding by email, Jeff Crowley, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy said that the President has no plans to abandon needle exchange, but is simply not moving on the issue yet. "The President is looking forward to working with Congress and the American people to build support for this change," says Crowley, "and his Administration is committed to moving forward to address the federal ban on syringe exchange programs as a part of a national HIV/AIDS strategy."

This, unfortunately, has been the refrain over and over again on issues of concern to so many in the HIV/AIDS community and the LGBT community.............."not now". There seems to be this mistaken impression that down the road times will be better for the passage of difficult issues. Does anyone really believe that we will ever have a better combination of Democratic Congress and president than we do now? Trust me, if the time is not now, it might just be never.