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House Passes Appropriations Bill with Needle Exchange Funding Ban Repeal In Tact

Despite his best efforts to continue the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) failed to convince the majority of his colleagues to remove an amendment that sought, as AP reported on July 25, 2009 ("House Permits Needle Exchange Programs"), to allow communities to use federal funding for needle exchange programs. The vote was close - 218 to 211 - but harm reduction advocates ultimately prevailed on the controversial measure, even after sitting through a "brief but passionate debate on [the] amendment [added] by [Souder] to keep the ban in place."

Souder argued that "HIV is spread chiefly through sexual activities and that needle exchange programs don't have a proven record of success." He added that "providing needles acts as a way for drug users to sustain their intravenous drug use and does not address the primary illness of the drug addiction." However, fellow Representatives like Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) rebutted, saying "the scientific evidence is indisputable and that needle exchange programs put addicts into contact with social service agencies, opening the door for them to seek treatment." As mentioned above, Roybal-Allard's argument proved more convincing, and for the first time since 1988, the federal government will monetarily support syringe exchange programs in regions that wish to establish them.

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