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No more federal dollars for syringe exchange: that was the message from Congress less than 3 months ago.

The funding ban is back, and the timing couldn’t be worse — with tight state budgets, and signs that many painkiller users are injecting or switching to heroin, our nation's syringe exchange programs need more support than ever. The National Harm Reduction Coalition, the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition and our allies are pulling out all the stops this time to demand that Congress and the federal government set politics aside, and we need your help.

On March 21, we made our voices heard around the country. Local meetings with US Senators, media events to highlight issues, and a National Call-in Day sponsored by a dozen organizations served to highlight our opposition and commitment to not backing down.

What Can You Do?

Visit and “Like” our National Day of Action Facebook page
Join in a local action: People in your state may already be organizing meetings with legislators and other events that you can join. There are currently plans for meetings in: CA, CO, CT, HI, IL, IN, MA, MN, NC, NM, NY, OH, PA, and WA . Contact Harm Reduction Coalition for general information. To find out about local actions go to:

None listed in your city? Go ahead and set up your own meeting with 3-6 others with your US Senators – Let us know so we can list it in our media release.
Demonstrate local support: Both before and after the Day of Action, you can circulate sign-on letters to show support from organizations and legislators in your state (samples coming soon!)

Share your knowledge: Bring an information packet to distribute in your meetings and leave for legislators, including fact sheets and background information on syringe exchange. Print out the linked packet of fact sheets and backgrounders to bring to your meeting, and please include one of your own describing what you can about syringe access availability and needs in your state. We will put new & improved versions up as we get them, you can find them at:

Make it visual! We’ll be posting some sample graphics, posters and images that you can blow up and use at demonstrations. Even if you’re just doing a meeting, take pictures before and after with messaging.

Make your own media: Add photos and videos to the Facebook page of you and your friends taking action, or send to us to post. And tweet!

Call-in’s to Senate offices: Mobilize within your organization to send out call in alert, do tabling and outreach on March 21 with cell phones and do live call-ins, etc. Watch this space for sample script and more details. You may phone the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Send a letter to your senator asking them to a syringe exchange champion. Below is a sample letter to send your senator

The Honorable Kay Hagan
521 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 228-2563

Dear Senator Hagan:

I am writing to ask you to be a champion on removing the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs (SEPs). SEPs provide sterile syringes and collect used syringes to reduce transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other bloodborne infections associated with reuse of contaminated injection equipment by drug users and diabetics. Most SEPs are part of a comprehensive health promotion effort that includes HIV counseling and testing, education on reducing sexual and drug use-related health risks, referral to drug treatment, and referral to other medical and social services. In 2008, CDC concluded that the incidence of HIV among IDUs had decreased by 80% in the US over a 20 year period in part due to SEPs. Without the presence of SEPs, one out of three members of law enforcement will suffer a needlestick during their career, exposing them to HIV and Viral hepatitis. In communities where SEPs are present, needlesticks to law enforcement needlesticks decrease by 66%; even when they do occur, the syringes are far less likely to be contaminated with HIV and viral hepatitis.
Republicans in the House were successful in reversing policy on syringe exchange through FY 2012 Appropriations in December 2011. They re-imposed a complete ban on the use of federal funding for syringe exchange despite overwhelming scientific evidence showing decreased HIV, viral hepatitis and drug abuse among syringe exchange program participants, which saves tax payers millions of dollars. We are asking you to be our champion, since we know you are pro-public health and pro-law enforcement. We ask you to:

1.    Ensure negotiations restore Congress’ FY 2010 syringe exchange language for both the federal and Washington, DC jurisdictions in FY 2012 appropriations legislation.
2.    Include language from FY 2010 on syringe exchange in the programmatic appropriations request letters due March 29th.
3.    Release a statement in support of restoring federal funding for syringe access programs.
4.    Encourage the North Carolina legislature and governor to decriminalize syringes and/or legalize syringe exchange.

Thank you for you time and consideration,


Originally posted to NC Harm Reduction Coalition on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 12:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by HIV AIDS Action.

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