Friday was a good day for AIDS activists and people with HIV in the US. The House Appropriations Committee passed an appropriations bill that, for the first time in 11 years, did NOT ban funding on syringe exchange. In addition, they also passed an appropriations bill that increased funding for Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) programs to $350 million, $40 million more than last year.
This is exciting news, but the process isn't over yet.
One bad amendment was accepted on syringe exchange, which mandates that federally funded syringe exchanges cannot operate within 1,000 feet of a school, park, public pool, arcade, or several other types of places--which would make syringe exchange in urban areas nearly impossible. Another amendment was considered to fully reinstated the ban. This failed, 33 to 24. Thank goodness!
We can expect more of the same, or even worse, this week when the full House votes on the appropriations bill. We will need to defeat those amendments and make sure the ban on funding of syringe exchange stays out of the appropriations bill.
So what happens now? After the House considers the appropriations bill, the Senate will need to pass their version. We will work to ensure the Senate version removes the ban on funding syringe exchange, with *no restrictions*, and increases funding for AIDS housing programs.
Anyone who doubts the power of grassroots action and protest to make change, take note - last week, 26 people were arrested in the Capitol Rotunda calling for an end to the federal ban on funding of syringe exchange, and increased funding for AIDS housing and global AIDS programs. And guess what? We're well on our way to win all three!