Published June, 2016

LGBTQ People and Syringe Services Programs, National LGBTQ Task Force (2016)

This report by the National LGBTQ Task Force summarizes an implementation guidance, dated March 29, 2016, from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), explaining how syringe services programs can use federal funds, which may have a significant positive impact on services for LGBTQ people. The guidance follows Congressional approval to partially lift the ban on federal funding for syringe services program in 2015. The Task Force summary highlights the potential impact of these services on LGBTQ people, citing social stress, stigma, isolation, discrimination, family rejection, and homelessness as drivers of substance use rates. Transgender people may also face barriers to accessing legal hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and thus be forced to use street hormones and rely on shared syringes, which carry the same risk of transmission of blood-borne illnesses as sharing syringes to inject drugs. The summary, citing the guidance, notes that federal funds may be used to support HIV testing; syringe supplies, exclusive of needles/syringes and devices solely used in the preparation of substances for illicit drug injection[1]; naloxen to reverse opioid overdoses; and distribution of educational materials and condoms, as part of syringe service programs. States experiencing, or at high risk for, significant increases in hepatitis or HIV infections may demonstrate that risk to the CDC to determine funding levels.

[1] According to the implementation guidance, although federal funds may not be used to purchase sterile needles or syringes for injection of any illegal drugs in syringe exchange programs, such items may be purchased in these programs with non-federal funds.