Lifting of Federal Ban and $2.6 Million in Private Investments in Syringe Exchange Programs Reduces Risk of Future HIV Outbreaks

Following the outbreak of 188 new infections linked to syringe sharing, and the lifting of the ban on use of federal funds for syringe exchange, the Syringe Access Fund awards $2.6 million in new grants.

Scott County became the epicenter of the largest outbreak of HIV in Indiana’s history when more than 188 people became newly infected early last year. This unprecedented injection-drug related HIV outbreak devastated the region and captivated the nation’s attention. The CDC estimates lifetime treatment costs associated with the epidemic may exceed $100 million. Sadly, with sound policy and appropriate resources the outbreak was preventable.

To reduce the risk of future outbreaks, AIDS United worked with bi-partisan congressional leadership to end the ban on the use of federal funding for Syringe Exchange Programs. New legislation, which resulted in the removal of the federal ban, was signed into law by President Obama in December of 2015. Building on this landmark policy shift, The Syringe Access Fund, awarded 58 grants in January of 2016, totaling $2.6 million over the next two years, focused on policy and implementation support for syringe exchange programs.

Syringe exchange programs are important because infected needles result in 3,000 to 5,000 new cases of HIV and approximately 10,000 new cases of hepatitis C in the U.S. each year. Conclusive scientific evidence has shown that syringe exchange programs significantly reduce transmission of HIV, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne illnesses, without promoting drug use. Syringe exchange programs protect police and the public from accidental exposure to used needles by promoting the safe disposal of used syringes. The Syringe Access Fund remains committed to ensuring these programs have the resources needed to expand impact and reduce HIV transmission in our most vulnerable communities.

The Syringe Access Fund is the largest private grant-making collaborative that supports syringe exchange programs as a proven and cost-effective strategy to reduce new HIV and viral hepatitis infections. The collaborative was founded in 2004 and is supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Irene Diamond Fund, Levi Strauss Foundation, Open Society Foundations and AIDS United. The Syringe Access Fund has distributed nearly $18 million through 347 grants to 161 organizations in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“Decades of scientific research have shown that syringe exchange not only reduces the rate of HIV and hepatitis C infections but also helps connect people who inject drugs to needed drug treatment and other medical services,” said Scott Campbell, Executive Director of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. “Congress’ partial lifting of the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange is a long-overdue step in the right direction. The outbreak of injection-related HIV infections in Indiana is all the more tragic and outrageous because it could easily have been prevented. We urge Congress to immediately lift the remaining stipulations prohibiting syringe exchange programs from purchasing injection equipment with federal funds and to increase federal funds for syringe exchange so we can bring injection-related infections in this country down to zero,” he added.

The 58 newly funded programs reflect a diversity of locations, populations and approaches, prioritizing underserved communities and areas of the U.S. with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and injection drug use. Each grantee will advance effective harm reduction strategies like safe injection, overdose prevention and HIV/viral hepatitis education among people who inject drugs. “Syringe exchange programs are a proven and cost-effective strategy to reduce new HIV and viral hepatitis infections and are critical if we are to prevent future outbreaks of HIV like the one in Scott County, Indiana,” says Campbell.

Interviews with some of the newly funded programs can be made available by contacting AIDS United’s communications coordinator.

The 2016-2017 Syringe Access Fund Grantees Include:

  • AIDS Alabama—Birmingham, AL
  • AIDS Project Worcester, Inc.—Worcester, MA
  • AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, WI
  • AIDS Resource Center Ohio, Inc.—Columbus, OH
  • Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association—Anchorage, AK
  • Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, INC.—Atlanta, GA
  • Austin Harm Reduction Coalition—San Marcos, TX
  • BOOM! Health—Bronx, NY
  • Border AIDS Partnership—El Paso, TX
  • Casa Segura HEPPAC—Oakland, CA
  • Chicago Recovery Alliance—Chicago, IL
  • Clark County Public Health—Vancouver, WA
  • Clean Needles Now/ LA Community Health Outreach Project—Los Angeles, CA
  • Colorado Nonprofit Development Center dba Harm Reduction Action Center—Denver, CO
  • Community Health Awareness Group—Detroit, MI
  • Criminal Justice Ministry—Saint Louis, MO
  • Down East AIDS Network, Inc.—Ellsworth, ME
  • El Punto en la Montaña—Rio Piedras, PR
  • Families and Youth, Inc.—Las Cruces, NM
  • Fort Peck Tribal Health Department—Poplar, MT
  • Frederiksted Health Care—Frederiksted, VI
  • Fresno Needle Exchange Program—Fresno, CA
  • Harm Reduction Coalition—New York, NY
  • HIPS—Washington, DC
  • HIV Alliance—Eugene, OR
  • HIV/HCV Resource Center—Lebanon, NH
  • Homeless Youth Alliance/San Francisco Needle Exchange—San Francisco, CA
  • Housing Works, Inc.—Brooklyn, NY
  • Howard Brown Health Center—Chicago, IL
  • Hyacinth AIDS Foundation—New Brunswick, NJ
  • Indiana Recovery Alliance—Bloomington, IN
  • Interior AIDS Association—Fairbanks, AK
  • Kansas City CARE Clinic—Kansas City, MO
  • Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government/Public Health & Wellness—Louisville, KY
  • Mendocino County AIDS/Viral Hepatitis Network—Ukiah, CA
  • Migrant Health Center, Inc.—Mayaguez, PR
  • National Native American AIDS Prevention Center—Denver, CO
  • New Orleans Trystereo Syringe Distribution—New Orleans, LA
  • North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Inc (NCHRC)—Raleigh, NC
  • Northern Nevada HOPES—Reno, NV
  •  People’s Harm Reduction Alliance—Seattle, WA
  • Point Defiance AIDS Project—Tacoma, WA
  • Point Defiance AIDS Project – Shot in the Dark—Tacoma, WA
  • Prevention Point Philadelphia—Philadelphia, PA
  • Prevention Point Pittsburgh—Pittsburgh, PA
  • Project SAFE—Philadelphia, PA • Safe Horizon—New York, NY
  • Santa Fe Mountain Center—Tesuque, NM
  • South Jersey Against AIDS, Inc. (DBA South Jersey AIDS Alliance)—Atlantic City, NJ
  • Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation—Tucson, AZ
  • The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland—Cleveland, OH
  • The Grand Rapids Red Project (HIV/AIDS Services, Inc.)—Grand Rapids, MI
  • The Portland Needle Exchange Program—Portland, ME
  • The San Francisco Drug Users Union—San Francisco, CA
  • Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico—Albuquerque, NM
  • University of Miami—Miami, FL
  • Urban Survivor’s Union—Greensboro, NC
  • Washington AIDS Partnership—Washington, DC


The Syringe Access Fund is a national grant-making collaborative that supports service providers and policy projects that reduce use of shared syringes and ensure their safe disposal. In more than 10 years of grant making, the Syringe Access Fund has made remarkable impact on public policy and public health, providing 347 grants to 161 organizations in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. To date, the Syringe Access Fund has awarded more than $18 million.

Created by a merger between the National AIDS Fund and AIDS Action in late 2010, 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 $91 million to local communities, and have leveraged more than $115 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 evidence-based programs and policies, and also 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 kind and generous friends and supporters, the two foundations together have raised more than $349 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, taking action and contributing to our efforts to achieve a world without AIDS.

The Irene Diamond Fund is a private foundation established in 1994 by the late philanthropist Irene Diamond. To date the Fund has given away more than $200 million for public health and public policy issues affecting poor and underserved communities, minority education, human rights and the performing arts. Since its inception, the Fund has provided over $60 million in funding to combat HIV/AIDS.

The Levi Strauss Foundation drives pioneering change by funding programs that push the frontiers of possibility around the world. The foundation’s philanthropic work is grounded in the enduring values of Levi Strauss & Co.: originality, integrity, empathy and courage. Levi Straus Foundation is committed to bringing those values to life while leading at the forefront of change. Through its grant-making around the world, Levi Strauss Foundation focuses on making a difference on three issues – HIV/AIDS, asset building and workers rights. We also support programs that advance the fields of philanthropy and human rights.

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. The foundations 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. 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.