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AMA Calls on Congress to Lift Ban on Federal Funding for Needle Exchanges


July 1997

On June 27, the American Medical Association voted to encourage Congress to remove the ban on federal funding for needle exchanges (Katharine Q. Seelye, "A.M.A. Backs Drug-User Needle Exchange," New York Times, June 27, 1997, p. A15).

The American Medical Association (AMA), which previously had only encouraged needle-exchange programs, voted overwhelmingly at its House of Delegates meeting in Chicago on June 24 to work with Congress to initiate new legislation to revoke the ban. "There is more and more evidence that the advantages of needle exchange outweigh the disadvantages," said Nancy Dickey, M.D., president-elect of the medical association. "We're addressing a public health epidemic."

Intravenous drug use is the cause of the greatest number of new AIDS cases among the heterosexual population. According to the AMA, if the ban continues to the year 2000, it would fail to prevent up to 11,000 cases of AIDS that would incur treatment costs of up to $630 million.

Peter Lurie, M.D., an expert on needle-exchange programs, said the benefit of such programs is obvious. "If an infection is spread from person to person by an inanimate object, you can prevent it by removing that object. This is not rocket science," he said.

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