SACRAMENTO, June 20 -- The Senate Health Committee today voted to pass AB 110, authored by Assembly Member John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), which would allow state HIV prevention funds to be used to purchase syringes for syringe exchange programs. Advocates praised legislators for acting on evidence rather than politics in supporting the bill.
Assembly Member Laird said, "Clean syringe exchange programs are an essential part of locally-focused efforts to reduce the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases. This bill clarifies state support for local programs that save lives and protect our communities."
Nikos Leverenz, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance's Sacramento Capitol Office, said, "Evidence shows that expanded access to sterile syringes is essential to reducing the transmission of HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases. AB 110, which provides state and local governments with the necessary flexibility to respond to serious health risks, will help protect thousands of people from HIV and hepatitis--all without appropriating any additional funding."
Sharing used syringes is directly linked to 20% of all reported AIDS cases in California. Over 26,000 state residents have been infected with HIV since 1981 as a direct result of needle sharing. Studies demonstrate that broader access to syringes can reduce new HIV infections among injection drug users by as much as one half, without increasing rates of drug use or crime. The bill voted on today would strengthen the preventive benefits of syringe access not only to Californians who use drugs, but to their sexual partners and children as well.
Dana Van Gorder, Director of State & Local Policy for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said, "San Francisco has virtually eliminated pediatric AIDS cases because of syringe exchange. Currently, state prevention dollars can be used to pay all of the costs of exchange programs except the cost that actually saves lives -- that of the syringe itself. AB 110 would correct that nonsensical problem."
Endorsed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and numerous medical and scientific experts, syringe exchange programs are proven to be a cost-effective means of suppressing the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other potentially deadly diseases--without contributing to increases in drug use, drug injection or crime. Syringes are cheap compared to HIV treatment, which can cost as much as $34,000 a year per person.
Furthermore, these programs provide an entry point to drug treatment and medical care for those currently injecting drugs or seeking to recover from addiction.
For more information on the importance of access to sterile syringes, visit: http://www.drugpolicy.org/reducingharm/needleexchan/