Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama ends ban on federal funding for needle-exchange programs

President Obama recently ended a decades-old ban on federal funding for needle-exchange programs. Needle-exchange programs are based on the idea of harm reduction; they provide hypodermic needles to injection drug users to prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other infectious diseases. They are, of course, controversial since many argue that giving clean needles to drug users will increase drug addiction. To me, the claim is eerily reminiscent of the argument used against condom distribution or comprehensive sex education in HIV prevention. But numerous studies have found that needle-exchange programs do NOT increase drug addiction and that they are very effective in decreasing the prevalence of HIV among injecting drug users. In one study, HIV infection rates decreased by 5.8% in one year in cities with needle-exchange programs while they increased by 5.9% in cities without the programs. President Obama has yet to reverse former President Bush's ban on the use of U.S. foreign aid money to finance needle-exchange programs. Perhaps that should be his next step considering the fact that 30% of global HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa are caused by injecting drugs!

Link to article:

An interesting side note on Teresa's article about the 2 cases of swine flu: there is a theory that pigs are potential "mixing vessels" (or some call them "cocktail shakers") since they can harbor both human and avian flu viruses. Inside the pigs, the human and avian flu viruses could exchange genetic material to mutate into a super virus that could be easily transmitted from human to human. As of now, avian flu H5N1 has not shown sustained human to human transmission, but there have been increasing reports of pigs infected with H5N1 in east and southeast Asia.


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