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Groups push to lift needle exchange ban in funding bill

Needle exchange advocates are urging lawmakers to use a coming must-pass budget bill to lift the decades-old prohibition on spending federal funds for clean syringes for drug users, supporters of the effort said Thursday.

The groups are pressing members of Congress, including Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, to ease a ban they say does little to curb drug abuse but stymies efforts to prevent HIV and hepatitis infections caused by needles.

Lawmakers approved the ban in 1988 as the crack epidemic was sweeping the country and the Reagan administration had expanded the nation's war on drugs. Congress has repeatedly extended the provision...