The House yesterday lifted a nine-year-old ban on using Washington, D.C., tax dollars to provide clean needles to drug addicts, reports the Washington Post. The vote gives city leaders what they consider a crucial weapon against a severe AIDS epidemic. The White House opposed lifting the ban, as did many Republicans and some Democrats. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) offered an amendment to restore it, saying needle-exchange programs “merely subsidize heroin use.” That amendment was defeated 216 to 208.
D.C. Health Director Gregg Pane said his department would commit $1 million toward needle-exchange programs for 2008. Advocates say providing clean needles to addicts lessens the chance that they will share dirty ones, potentially passing on HIV and other blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis. Intravenous drug users make up about one-third of Washington’s new AIDS cases annually.