As Nation Struggles to Confront Opioid Crisis; Fund Announces $2.4M for Syringe Service Programs and Policy

For Immediate Release: January 31, 2018
Contact: Kyle Murphy, (202) 876-2820,

Washington, DC — As the nation’s public health system struggles to respond to the expanding opioid epidemic, AIDS United’s Syringe Access Fund announced nearly $2.4 million in grants today to 62 organizations working to prevent HIV and viral hepatitis through the provision of sterile injection equipment, critical health education and messaging, and local and regional advocacy.

The rapid rise in injection-drug use associated with the current opioid crisis is unleashing a torrent of public health threats beyond increases in overdoses, including rising hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV infections, particularly among young adults. In addition to high profile HIV outbreaks like those seen in Scott County, Ind., the number of new HCV cases nationwide nearly tripled between 2010 and 2015. In fact, HCV now kills more Americans than all other 60 notifiable infectious diseases combined.

“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. 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.”

“These funds will help us grow an extremely important program in West Virginia, where we are feeling the impact of the opioid epidemic” said Laura Jones, executive director of Milan Puskar Health Right, a current Syringe Access Fund grantee. “Through the support of the Fund, we will be able to hire a peer recovery coach and provide services to more rural areas, where harm reduction is in great need.”

Syringe access services are a proven, cost-effective approach for preventing transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis among people who inject drugs, reducing risk of “accidental pricks” for police and sanitation workers, and engaging people who use drugs in other support services. Syringe access services help people who inject drugs to access substance use treatment programs, increasing enrollment and retention.

As our nation confronts the realities of addiction and the limitations of our traditional healthcare delivery systems, policymakers are primed to consider the very harm reduction strategies they once reflexively opposed.

“It’s been a long hard push, combatting misconceptions and moral objections to services for people who use drugs, but we have seen some promising policy movement across the country,” added Monique Tula, executive director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, another Fund grantee. “As we continue our work, promoting sound, evidence-based strategies for protecting the health of people who inject drugs, we are thrilled to have the support of the Fund.”

For a full list of grantees, visit


The Syringe Access Fund is the nation’s largest private supporter of syringe service programs. Created in 2004, to date the Fund has awarded $20 million. The latest round of support will fund 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. During the past year, more than 3.6 million used syringes were collected and disposed and more than 25.6 million sterile syringes distributed by the organizations supported by the Fund.

About the Syringe Access Fund Partners:

AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S. through strategic grant-making, capacity building, formative research and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS-related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $104 million to local communities and have leveraged more than $117 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction and advocacy.

At the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) we believe that AIDS can be beaten. We act on that belief by raising funds for effective programs and policies, and by speaking out with honesty and compassion about the realities of people’s lives. Sir Elton John created EJAF over twenty years ago, first in the United States in 1992 and then in the United Kingdom in 1993. Through hard work and with the help of our network of kind, amazing, creative, and generous friends and supporters, the two foundations together have raised more than $300 million over the past two decades to combat stigma, prevent infections, provide treatment and services, and motivate governments to end AIDS. The U.S. foundation focuses its efforts on programs in the United States, the Americas, and the Caribbean, while the U.K. foundation funds HIV-related work in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Join us in speaking out, acting, and contributing to our efforts to achieve a world without AIDS.

The H. van Ameringen Foundation was originally founded in 1967 by Henry van Ameringen, the son of A. L. van Ameringen who created International Flavors and Fragrances and his son’s fortune. In 1982, returning from France where he worked for 20 years, Mr. van Ameringen was confronted by the AIDS crisis. By 1987, he funded many service organizations connected to AIDS, particularly for minorities. This led later to general support of Gay and Lesbian causes with a focus on the problems of gay youth.

The Levi Strauss Foundation is the corporate foundation of Levi Strauss & Co., one of the world’s largest brand-name apparel companies. The foundation’s philanthropic work is grounded in the company’s values of originality, integrity, empathy and courage. For over 60 years, the Levi Strauss Foundation has embraced the energy and events of our time to advance pioneering social change in the areas of HIV/AIDS, worker rights and well-being, and social justice in the communities where we do business

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. We seek to strengthen the rule of law; respect for human rights, minorities, and a diversity of opinions; democratically elected governments; and a civil society that helps keep government power in check. We help to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights. We implement initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media. We build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information. Working in every part of the world, the Open Society Foundations place a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.