After two decades, Congress has voted to lift a ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs, reports National Public Radio. AIDS activists say the move legitimizes needle exchange in the nationwide fight against HIV/AIDS. For years, needle exchange programs in three dozen states have provided clean needles to intravenous drug users as a way to reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. The programs have relied solely on state and local funding because of a longtime ban at the federal level. Critics regarded needle exchange as an incentive for drug addicts to continue to use.
Around the country, the rate of needle exchange continues to increase. According to the North American Syringe Exchange Network, more than 30 million clean needles were distributed last year. Even in a rural state like Maine, the numbers are up.