amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

New amfAR Film Makes Powerful Case for Syringe Services Programs

Film urges lawmakers to rescind the ban on federal funding for syringe services programs

For Immediate Release 

Media Contact:
AnnMari Shannahan, Vice President, Public Information
(212) 806-1754;


NEW YORK, February 27, 2013 – amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research on February 27 announced the release of a new short film that shows in very human terms the proven ability of syringe services programs (often called syringe exchange programs) to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases, including HIV.  Moreover, as the film and the evidence demonstrate, these programs also save money, encourage the safe disposal of syringes, minimize the risk of needlestick injuries to law enforcement officials, and help give people who inject drugs access to vital drug treatment services.

The 10-minute film, titled “The Exchange,” was produced by Waterbound Pictures with funding from the Open Society Foundations and generous donors to amfAR.  It can be viewed at, where visitors can also find additional information about this important issue.

In 2009, Congress removed a 21-year prohibition on the use of federal funds to support syringe services programs, only to reinstate the ban two years later. In 2013, even as injection drug use continues to contribute substantially to the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, federal public health funds are unavailable for syringe exchange.

“This is a battle we’ve been fighting for over two decades,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “With this film, we hope to get the message across that it’s time to remove this ban once and for all. It’s anti-public health and it flies in the face of a large body of evidence that shows that syringe exchange programs are effective, don’t increase drug use, and don’t increase crime.“  

Syringe services programs are not illegal throughout most of the country, and more than 200 are currently operating in 34 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  Through interviews with syringe exchange staff, public health officials, former drug users, and law enforcement, the film distills a wide range of experiences and perspectives into a powerful argument in favor of syringe exchange.

“Our film also underscores the human and economic benefits of syringe services programs,” said amfAR Vice President and Director of Public Policy Chris Collins. “With a relatively modest investment, these programs save millions of taxpayer dollars through the health care costs they avert by preventing infections.”

For more on this topic, see our issue brief: Federal Funding for Syringe Services Programs: Saving Money, Promoting Public Safety, and Improving Public Health (PDF).

About amfAR
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $366 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.

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