Eight months after Congress voted to end a decade-long ban on the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs (NEPs) in the District of Columbia, money is starting to flow to the programs in the city with the nation's highest rate of HIV. District officials had announced almost immediately after the congressional vote that they would fund NEPs in an effort to control the spread of the disease among injection drug users.
According to a DC HIV/AIDS Administration 2007 report, injection drug use is the second most common mode of acquiring the HIV virus after unprotected sex, and the District has some 10,000 injection drug users.
DC NEP advocates have long argued that the federal funding ban left them starved for funds and unable to adequately address the injection drug using population. PreventionWorks!, for example, has had to scrape by on private contributions, limiting the work it has been able to do.
The need is obvious and so is the response, Ken Vail, the group's executive director, told the Times. "If you want to reduce the spread of HIV... you put more syringes out there," he said.