amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

New Law Allows Funding for Syringe Exchange Programs in D.C.

January 4, 2008—President Bush signed legislation on December 26, 2007 lifting a nine-year ban on city funding for syringe exchange programs in the District of Columbia. Federal spending bills since 1998 made Washington, D.C., the only city in the nation prohibited from using either federal or local taxpayer dollars to fund such programs. The ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs is still in place.

The use of unsterile syringes by injection drug users is the second leading cause of HIV infection in Washington, which has the highest HIV rate of any major U.S. city. Officials estimate that more than 20 percent of the city’s AIDS cases can be traced to injection drug use. Rates are higher among the city’s African-American population and are increasing quickly among black women.

Currently, Washington, D.C., has only one syringe exchange program, PreventionWorks!, which has been funded entirely by private donations from organizations such as amfAR. With the ban lifted, the city plans to devote $650,000 to the expansion of syringe exchange programs. PreventionWorks! will receive a $300,000 city grant and the remaining funds will be used to establish additional programs throughout the city.