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A Victory for Science and Public Health

Posted on by Karina

This afternoon, the House passed the conference report on the FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (HR 3288) which includes the Transportation-HUD, Labor-HHS-Education, Commerce-Justice-Science, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, Financial Services, and State-Foreign Operations spending bills. The legislation addresses critical needs such as investing in community health centers and state health access grants, counseling and aid for families at risk of foreclosure, and increased housing assistance for the most vulnerable Americans. It also honors our commitment to Veterans — providing a 10% increase for veterans' health care, increased resources for mental health services for veterans and assistance for homeless veterans, and provides advanced appropriations for VA health care for FY 2011. To strengthen our economy and create jobs, the appropriations make a series of key investments, including:

Infrastructure: Creates an estimated 1.5 million jobs by investing $41.8 billion in highway infrastructure in 2010; provides a 10.6% increase for constructing new commuter rail systems; and invests $2.5 billion in high speed/intercity passenger rail.

Worker Training and Placement: Provides increased resources for key training and placement initiatives, including working with community colleges to prepare workers for careers in high-demand and emerging industries.

Innovation: Invests in an Innovation Agenda to make America more competitive, including a 10% increase in science education, a 7% increase in NSF-funded scientific research, and investments in Manufacturing Extension Partnerships and the Technology Innovation Program.

Small Business: Provides a 35% increase in funding for the Small Business Administration, enabling it to support $28 billion in new lending for America's 25 million small businesses in 2010.

Rebuilding Protections for Investors & Consumers: Builds renewed confidence in the U.S. economy by rebuilding the capacities of the SEC to protect investors and of the FTC to protect consumers.

Improving Education: Economists tell us that strategic investments in education strengthen the economy. This bill invests in proven programs like Head Start and innovative programs like the Teacher Incentive Fund to raise student achievement; also enables a maximum Pell Grant in 2010 of $5,550 — which is $1,500 higher than it was in January 2007, making college more affordable.

Retaining Cops and Other Law Enforcement: Provides funds to hire or retain 1,400 cops in 2010; also helps state and local governments retain other law enforcement/prosecution jobs with investments in such programs as the Byrne JAG program and Violence Against Women.

Learn more from the Appropriations Committee»

In addition to making numerous other investments, the bill includes language lifting the long-time ban on federal funding for syringe exchange initiatives to prevent the spread of HIV–a victory for science and public health. Speaker Pelosi:

The scientific support for syringe exchange could not be more clear. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH has said, 'Clearly, needle exchange programs work. There is no doubt about that.' More specifically, as Dr. Fauci confirmed during a 2008 hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the science shows syringe exchanges effectively reduce new HIV infections without increasing the use of illegal drugs.

In addition to the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine, the American Medical Association, the American Pediatric Association, the American Public Health Association and former Surgeon General David Satcher have all confirmed the scientific evidence in support of syringe exchange as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention.

Sound science is an essential component of good public health policy, and science must come first in our public health policy decisions. The language lifting the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange appropriately allows local public health and law enforcement officials to determine where exchanges should operate in their communities.

Injection drug use is linked to 12 percent of new HIV infections, as well as most Hepatitis C infections. Lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange is a big victory for science and for public health.

We simply cannot rest until we have done everything possible to prevent new HIV infections, including ensuring access to proven interventions such as syringe exchange. We cannot rest until every person living with HIV has access to the care and medications they need to stay healthy. And we cannot rest until we have a cure.

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