PRESS RELEASE FROM THE DRUG POLICY FOUNDATION:
Researchers, Clinton Administration Reviews Agree:
Feds Must Act on Needle Exchange
Hidden Government Reports Released by DPF
WASHINGTON, March 7 - Adding to pressure on the Clinton administration to begin federal funding of needle exchange programs, the Drug Policy Foundation today released secret internal administration documents on the issue.
Drug Policy Foundation Executive Director David C. Condliffe said, "Every day of federal inaction on needle exchange costs lives. Today, we're helping to remove one barrier the Clinton administration has erected -- their refusal to make public two internal agency reviews of the issue. One advocates federal funding of needle exchange programs, and the other demonstrates the public health obscenity of one year of silence."
Condliffe continued, "The case for federal funding of needle exchanges is clear and convincing, and action is urgent. It's time for science to decide this issue, not politics."
Every year since 1988, Congress has prohibited federal funding of needle exchange programs. But provisions in current law allow the administration to overturn the ban by presenting scientific evidence of needle exchanges' efficacy. The Clinton administration has not showed a willingness to do so, despite recommendations to act by top federal health agencies. Those recommendations are contained in the reports made public today for the first time.
Foundation President Arnold S. Trebach said, "We have come a long way from the early questions about needle exchange programs. Now, the science is more complete, and more professional organizations are formally in support of using these programs to check the spread of AIDS."
Trebach added, "The Clinton administration must act on the recommendations of groups like the American Medical Association and its own top health agencies, who all agree that needle exchange programs are a necessary part of our national HIV prevention efforts."
Recent news reports in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Post have detailed administration hand-wringing over the needle exchange issue. It began in September 1993, when University of California researchers published a report for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the most exhaustive study yet of needle exchange programs around the world, the researchers concluded that it is "likely" that needle exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV among participating drug users. In addition, they found no evidence that needle exchanges increase drug use among clients or in the overall communities they serve.
Faced with the report's recommendation that the federal government should support needle exchange programs, the Clinton administration asked its health agencies to review the document and make recommendations. On December 10, 1993, the CDC and other agencies affirmed the conclusions of the research and agreed that "the ban on federal funding of [needle exchange programs] should be lifted."
Still, with all the information at their disposal, Clinton administration officials continued reviewing the issue, rather than taking action. Another health agency review was submitted to decision-makers November 22, 1994. Neither the 1993 review nor the more recent one has been made public; indeed, the existence of the 1994 review only became known February 16, when the Post ran its story on the issue.
Both administration reviews were recently made available to the Drug Policy Foundation. In turn, the Foundation has declared the documents to be in the public interest, and is therefore making them available today.
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The Drug Policy Foundation presents the first of its 1995 Congressional Forums:
"Needle Exchange: A Life-Saving Policy" Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-352 Washington, DC Friday, March 10, 10:00-11:30 AM
The discussion panel will include Dr. Peter Lurie, lead researcher on the 1993 University of California study that prompted all of the controversy within the Clinton administration. Two other leading researchers are also being featured: Ed Kaplan of Yale University and Ernest Drucker of New York's Montefiore Medical Center.
The Forum will also feature the searing 10-minute documentary on needle exchanges "Fire In Our House," which was produced by Rory Kennedy and Vanessa Vadim of Mayday Productions.
The Congressional Forum is open to the press and the public. For more information, contact the Drug Policy Foundation in Washington, DC, (202) 537-5005.
Three recent news stories have captured much of the hand-wringing in the government over the evidence on needle exchange programs. They are:
1. "Needle Exchange," Associated Press, March 7, 1995, filed at 1 AM, by Lauran Neergard.
2. "Reports Back Needle Exchange Programs," The Washington Post, Feb. 16, 1995, by John Schwartz.
3. "Needle-Swap Report Being Kept Secret," The San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 6, 1994, by Louis Freeberg.
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