Former HHS Secretary Sullivan Defends Needle Exchange
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Former HHS Secretary Sullivan Defends Needle Exchange

Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-1302

July 29, 1999

President Bush's Health and Human Services Secretary,
Dr. Louis Sullivan Opposes the Tiahrt Amendment

Dear Colleague:

I commend to your attention the following letter (on reverse) from President Bush's former HHS Secretary Dr. Louis Sullivan. Dr. Sullivan opposes any attempt by Congress to limit the ability of local or state governments to implement needle exchange programs as a response to a public health crisis like that in the District of Columbia.

Yours truly,

Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.
Member of Congress
2nd District, Illinois

720 Westview Drive, S.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30310-1495
Telephone (404) 752-1740

July 28, 1999

The Honorable Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representatives
The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I write today to urge you to allow local communities to implement needle exchange programs - if they choose - as part of a comprehensive program to combat the national epidemic of HIV/AIDS.

The science supporting needle exchange programs is now clear. Last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and nine top federal scientists and public health officials determined that there is now conclusive scientific evidence that needle exchange programs, as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention. Respected researchers have concluded that such programs reduce the transmission of HIV and do not encourage or increase the use of illicit drugs. I support the findings of these distinguished public health officials and ask you to oppose any efforts to undermine sound science and effective public health measures.

During my tenure as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, I was asked to support needle exchange programs. At that time, scientific data did not exist to support the proposition that needle exchange programs were an effective public health intervention. However, data collected in the past six years now show that such programs can be an effective part of a successful comprehensive program designed to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Action by the Congress to limit the ability of state and local health authorities to carry out needle exchange programs would be counterproductive and would result in preventable new infections of this deadly virus. I, therefore, urge you not to pass legislation that would compromise the efforts of state and local governments to curb new HIV infections. Effective public health and sound science should lead and inform this debate.

Thank you for your consideration.


Louis W. Sullivan, M.D.
Former Secretary, U.S. Department of HHS
President, Morehouse School of Medicine

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