The Syringe Access Fund today announced nearly $2.4 million in grants awarded to 62 organizations that are driving efforts to prevent HIV and viral hepatitis by providing injection drug users with access to sterile injection equipment and related health messaging. The funding will support syringe service programs and advocacy efforts to increase access to these programs in 32 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands through 2020, many of which serve the very same communities impacted by increased injection drug use stemming from the opioid epidemic that currently rages across the country.
“Injection drug use has always been a primary mode of transmission for both HIV and viral hepatitis, and the sharing of needles continues to result in thousands of new HIV transmissions each year,” said Elton John, Founder of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “In light of recent HIV outbreaks linked to injection drug use, which threaten to curb the progress we’ve made toward ending HIV, this is a critical time to continue resourcing programs that provide clean needles and other equipment to injection drug users, because these programs are proven to help prevent the spread of the disease.”
For nearly fifteen years, the Syringe Access Fund has been supporting effective programs that promote the health, safety, and well-being of people who inject drugs, with the goal of reducing HIV and other bloodborne infections. Funding for the Syringe Access Fund is provided by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Levi Strauss Foundation, and the H. van Ameringen Foundation, and is administered by AIDS United. For this latest round of grantmaking, EJAF provided $2 million in support to the fund because mitigating the spread of HIV/AIDS through intravenous drug use remains a priority for the Foundation. To date, the Syringe Access Fund has distributed over $20 million through 409 grants to 177 organizations in 33 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands that serve vulnerable populations including people of color, rural communities, and the LGBT community. Consequently, grantees were able to distribute more than 66 million syringes to more than 350,000 clients.
“Access to sterile syringes is a proven public health tool to prevent the transmission of HIV and HCV,” said Jesse Milan Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United. “Despite longstanding, clear scientific evidence, the federal government continues to hedge its support for syringe services by prohibiting the use of federal dollars to procure sterile syringes themselves. And, too many state and local authorities continue to oppose these programs, even as their residents’ need for them grows. The Syringe Access Fund was designed to step in where government refuses to act. With the opioid epidemic raging, the Syringe Access Fund is needed now more than ever.”
“Funding through the Syringe Access Fund is critical to increase access to life-saving tools and services for people who use drugs,” said Dr. Hansel Tookes, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, a Syringe Access Fund grantee. “The Syringe Access Fund helped us legalize syringe services in Miami. With continued support from the Fund of our advocacy efforts, Florida is on the brink of allowing syringe services statewide, which could be a turning point for the entire South.”
A complete list of all 62 grants is posted at www.ejaf.org.