Why Congress should rethink syringe issue

(CNN)If someone told you that your city had started a program providing clean needles to injecting drug users, would that make you want to start injecting drugs yourself? The answer, of course, would be no. Yet for decades, many have stood by the belief that such programs, known as syringe exchange or syringe services programs, promote and encourage drug use. Indeed, for Congress, it became the rationale behind a ban implemented in 1988 that prohibits the use of federal funds for these programs.

But an overwhelming body of scientific evidence continues to show that this is simply not true.

As a result of the recent spikes in HIV and hepatitis C infections among injecting drug users in rural Indiana and Kentucky, the controversial topic of syringe exchange programs has come to the fore again. And this time, scientific evidence and sound public health practices prevailed as both states authorized the implementation of syringe exchange programs to help curb the spread of these two blood-borne diseases that can be spread by contaminated syringes.