OBAMA DISAPPOINTS NEEDLE-EXCHANGE ADVOCATES
Pubdate: Mon, 11 May 2009
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
President Obama has called for repealing the ban on federal funding
for anti-AIDS programs that supply clean needles to drug users. His
drug policy director supported such a program when he was Seattle's
police chief. And last week, Obama's nominee to head the Food and
Drug Administration won praise in a Senate committee for her
leadership on needle exchange.
So advocates of the programs in the Bay Area and elsewhere were
surprised and dismayed when Obama's budget for 2009-10 proposed to
continue the funding prohibition that dates from the 1980s.
"We hoped that the president would seize the first opportunity for
lifting federal restrictions on this life-saving prevention
strategy," said Paola Barahona of Physicians for Human Rights.
"Denying people at risk for HIV a proven prevention intervention is
a denial of their basic human rights."
"Without the federal funding, we're missing people that we could
reach," said Laura Thomas, who heads the Drug Policy Alliance office
in San Francisco and volunteers at a local needle-exchange program.
"It's ridiculous that at this point in the epidemic, we're not
looking to science in determining what we're funding."
A similar view could be found on the White House Web site soon after
Obama took office in January: "The president also supports lifting
the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce
rates of infection among drug users."
That comment was erased from the site recently.