As we reflect upon history made by the Texas Legislature in 2009 and prepare for the 2011 82nd Legislative Session, we are happy to report that the ban on the use of federal funds for syringe exchange programs has finally come to an end in the interim. As proposed in 2009, Texas Senate Bill 188 would have allowed local options for disease prevention programs including syringe exchange. Senate Bill 188 made history by making it farther through the legislature than any similar legislation filed since 1993, inspiring the largest bi-partisan coalition of House and Senate bill authors and supporters ever on this issue, and bringing together an unprecedented and diverse coalition of supporting organizations from around the state. We are optimistic that in 2011 Texas will follow the lead of the U.S. Congress and keep pace with the nation in allowing programs that effectively save lives and taxpayer money.
As of 2008, 14,147 Texans were living with HIV/AIDS as a result of having acquired this deadly disease directly from injection drug use, or indirectly as a partner or child of an injection drug user. An estimated 300,000 Texans are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), the leading cause of liver disease. Injection drug use is the number one risk factor for HCV. Syringe exchange programs safely and effectively reduce the transmission of these diseases and save the state from bearing the burden of millions of dollars in treatment costs.
Austin is fortunate to host the 2010 8th National Harm Reduction Conference, Harm Reduction Beyond Borders, November 18 - 21. The conference takes place at the Renaissance Hotel at 9721 Arboretum Boulevard. Please visit the website for further details (www.8thnationalharmreductionconference.com). We invite you to join like-minded Texans at a special conference session hosted by The Access Project, Texans Mobilizing for 2011: Syringe Exchange in the 82nd Texas Legislative Session, on Thursday, November 18th, 2010 at 7:15 p.m. The Access Project looks to bring stakeholders to the table to organize and plan advocacy action steps for the upcoming legislative session.
For further information on the history, safety and effectiveness of these lifesaving programs please visit The Access Project website (www.texasaccessproject.org) or contact Jenny Panzo, Education Coordinator at The Access Project, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Access Project looks forward to seeing you at the conference!
Jenny Panzo, MPH