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Clinton's AIDS Panel Expresses "No Confidence" in Administration For Failure to Fund Needle Exchanges


March-April 1998

On March 16, President Clinton's AIDS advisory panel unanimously expressed "no confidence" in the Administration's commitment to reducing the spread of AIDS because of its failure to support federal funding of needle exchange programs (Barbara Vobejda, "AIDS Panel Sends Rebuke to Clinton," Washington Post, March 17, 1998, p. A12; Associated Press, "Advisors on AIDS Urge U.S. Spending on Needles," New York Times, March 17, 1998, p. A23; Marlene Cimons, "Clinton's Own Panel Attacks His Commitment to AIDS Fight," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), March 18, 1998, p. A5).

In a resolution, the 30-member Presidential Action Committee on HIV demanded that the administration immediately free federal AIDS prevention funds for needle-exchange programs. "The administration's current policy on needle exchange programs threatens the public health, and directly contradicts current scientific evidence," said the resolution. "Tragically, we must conclude that it is a lack of political will, not scientific evidence, that is creating this failure to act,'' the council said in a letter to Clinton.

The panel called on H.H.S. Secretary Donna Shalala to immediately declare that these programs reduce the spread of HIV without encouraging drug use, two findings that must be made by Shalala in order to lift the ban on federal funding of needle exchanges. In a letter to Shalala, the panel wrote: "We are increasingly dismayed by your almost complete silence and continued inaction" on needle exchange policy.

The nation's leading scientific groups agree that letting addicts exchange used needles for sterile ones significantly cuts the spread of HIV. The National Institutes of Health wrote in a 1997 report that "there is no longer any doubt that these programs work" to reduce transmission of HIV and that "needle-exchange programs should be implemented at once." The National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association and the United States Conference of Mayors have endorsed needle exchanges.

Presidential Action Committee on HIV - Office of National AIDS Policy, 808 17th Street, NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20006, Tel: (202) 632-1090, Fax: (202) 632-1096.