amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

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Economic Benefits, Racial Disparities and Addiction Highlighted in New amfAR Films on Syringe Services Programs

Three new films urge Congress to end the ban on federal funding for syringe services programs

NEW YORK, Oct. 9, 2013 – amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, today announced the release of three short films that demonstrate the benefits of syringe services programs, which are proven to reduce the spread of HIV among people who inject drugs.  The new films underscore the economic advantages and human impact of these services in the U.S., where injection drug use remains an important factor in the HIV/AIDS epidemic and accounts for approximately eight percent of all HIV diagnoses.  

The films build on “The Exchange,” a short documentary released by amfAR earlier this year, and are part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to urge lawmakers to end the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe services programs (also known as syringe exchange programs).  All four films can be viewed at, where visitors can find additional information on the issue.    

In 2009, Congress removed a 21-year prohibition on the use of federal funds to support syringe services program, only to reinstate the ban two years later. In 2013, as injection drug use continues to contribute substantially to the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, federal funds remain unavailable for syringe exchange.

Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez narrates “The Exchange: Drugs and Race,” a five-minute film that follows two individuals whose lives have been affected by drug addiction, and ultimately changed because of syringe services programs. Both stories – one of a Hispanic syringe exchange client and the other of an African-American former addict now working at a syringe exchange program – highlight the reality that African-Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately affected by HIV contracted through the use of contaminated needles. Nationwide, African Americans are 11 times and Hispanics five times more likely to become infected with HIV from injection drug use than Caucasians. 

In “The Exchange: Dollars and Sense,” a compelling case is made through interviews with public health officials and syringe exchange staff that syringe services programs not only saves lives, they also save millions of dollars in treatment costs averted. As hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually to treat HIV as well as hepatitis C infections resulting from needle sharing during injection drug use, individual needles and syringes cost less than $1. Additionally, every dollar spent on syringe exchange saves $3–$7 in HIV treatment costs alone.

The third film, “The Exchange: Addiction and You,” dramatizes the increasingly common transition from prescription drug abuse to heroin use and addiction.  The number of Americans using heroin rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 620,000 in 2011. The two-minute film shows how syringe exchange programs are used by people from all walks of life.

“These new films deliver the message that syringe exchange programs play an important role in helping us end the AIDS epidemic here in the U.S.,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “We hope that these films will get Congress to realize that lifting the ban won’t cost a thing, and will save millions of taxpayer dollars by helping to prevent new infections.”

The films were produced by Waterbound Pictures with funding from the Open Society Foundations.

About amfAR

amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy.  Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $366 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide. To learn more, visit us at