Soros Pledges Additional $1 Million for Needle Exchanges in U.S.
In light of the federal government's decision to not fund needle exchange programs, philanthropist George Soros today offered $1 million in matching funds to support needle exchange programs in the U.S. With 35% of all new HIV cases in the United States now due to drug-injection with unclean needles, Mr. Soros is challenging individuals, private foundations and local governments to help stop the spread of HIV by supporting needle exchanges. Last year, Mr. Soros provided $1 million to fund needle exchange programs in the U.S. "Over half of all AIDS cases involving children are directly related to unclean syringes," said Mr. Soros. "It has been scientifically proven, and the federal government agrees, that making sterile syringes readily available to addicts reduces the spread of HIV and does not encourage drug use. I challenge other philanthropic organizations, individuals, and local governments to join me in supporting these life-saving programs."
This week, the Clinton Administration announced that needle exchange programs are effective at reducing the spread of HIV and do not encourage drug use. However, the Administration refused to allow federal funding to be used for such programs. Secretary Donna Shalala urged state and local governments to implement their own programs using their own dollars to fund needle exchanges.
"The U.S. is virtually alone among advanced, industrialized nations in prohibiting the funding of needle exchange programs," said Ethan Nadelmann, Director of the Lindesmith Center, a drug policy research institute funded by Mr. Soros. "It is now up to individuals, philanthropic groups, and state and local governments to fill the void left by the federal government."
Needle exchange programs are supported by the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association as well as other prestigious medical and public health organizations. In addition, the American Bar Association and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have urged the federal government to allow states and localities to use federal HIV prevention funds to implement needle exchange programs.