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HHS Releases Guidance for Syringe Services Programs

Dr. Howard Koh

Dr. Howard Koh, HHS

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is committed to working with grantees and partners to reduce the spread of HIV and other infections in the United States. One preventable form of transmission is through HIV contaminated needles used by injection drug users (IDUs). In 2008, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 10% of adults and adolescents newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. acquired their disease through injection drug use.

Syringe Services Programs (SSPs), when used as part of comprehensive medical and substance abuse treatment and prevention services, can decrease HIV transmission. These programs provide necessary prevention services, including access to sterile injection equipment. In an effort to support these programs on July 7, 2010, HHS released guidance for specific funded programs to follow when implementing syringe services programs (SSPs) for IDUs with redirected funds from Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 appropriated dollars. 

This guidance follows enactment of "The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010" which was passed by Congress and signed by the President in December 2009.  This Act modified a prohibition on the use of funds for needle exchange programs and lifted the ban on the use of Federal funds for SSPs.  

The Act prohibits the use of funds for SSPs in any location that local public health or local law enforcement agencies determine to be inappropriate. To ensure an effective implementation of these efforts, HHS worked with CDC and SAMHSA to develop the following guiding principles for use of funds and provided agency specific guidance on what federally funded providers need to do to access funds for SSPs.

Guiding Principles for Using HHS Funding for SSPs

  • Programs should adhere to state and local laws, regulations, and requirements related to such programs or services.
  • SSPs must be implemented as part of a comprehensive service program.
  • HHS grantees should coordinate and collaborate with other agencies, organizations, and providers involved in SSPs.
  • SSPs are subject to the terms and conditions in the grantee’s current cooperative agreement or grants.
  • Grantees will annually certify that they will comply with language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010. Grantees must in turn have documentation that local law enforcement and local public health authorities have agreed upon the SSP location; copies of such documentation must be made available upon request.
  • Funds may be used for: personnel, SSP equipment, syringe disposal services, educational materials, communication and marketing activities, and evaluation.

CDC Specific Guidance

  • Applicable Cooperative Agreements (currently only health department cooperative agreements).
  • Process for Programs to Follow to use Current Cooperative Agreement Funding.
  • Checklist for Submission of Documents to CDC for Health Departments Wanting to Redirect Funding for SSPs.

SAMHSA Specific Guidance

  • Applicable Cooperative Agreements and Grants (only grants funded under the Minority HIV/AIDS program and the TCE-HIV program).
  • Process to Follow

Again, HHS is committed to working with grantees and partners to reduce the spread of HIV and other infections. For more information on the above guidances go to (PDF 41 KB)