By Sara Sciammacco
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton wants D.C. to be able to use its own money for needle exchange programs. Pending legislation before Congress makes that illegal.
Holmes Norton cites research that shows safe disposal of needles helps reduce HIV and Hepatitis. D.C. has the highest rate of HIV infection in the country, with much of the epidemic caused by drug use.
Holmes Norton pushed a House subcommittee to lift the ban two years ago, but she says some Republicans want to bring it back. "My good friends on the other side of the aisle banned needle exchange for 10 years; what happened as a result is it allowed the virus to get a foothold here.," says Norton.
Opponents say the programs, which give free sterile needles in exchange for used ones, encourage drug use.