HIV Prevention and D.C. Statehood

While stopping COVID-19 isn’t going well in D.C., there is good news on the HIV front (boldface mine):

The District has experienced a 79% reduction in newly diagnosed HIV cases since 2007, according to a newD.C. Health Department report.

That includes a dramatic drop in cases attributable to injection drug use, from 150 cases in 2007 to only 2 in 2019. This change correlates with the 2007 enactment of D.C. needle exchange program. That enabled qualified officials to provide clean and sterile hypodermic needles and syringes to injecting drug users. The hope was that doing so would cut down on viruses and diseases transmitted through intravenous drug use.

So how does D.C. statehood factor into this? Unlike states, the mainland colony of D.C. has its budget approved by Congress, and Congress can refuse to do so. This has led to Republicans inflicting legislation on the citizens of the District so they can posture for their constituents on controversial issues (fuck you, ‘heartland’ America). One of those issues was needle-exchange. From 1998 to 2007, Congressional Republicans prevented D.C. from passing a needle exchange program, likely leading to hundreds of D.C. residents contracting HIV.

Leaving aside the power politics of D.C. statehood (gaining two Democratic senators), we should be allowed to enact legislation without Congressional approval, just like everyone else. Yes, we’ll make mistakes–though it’s hard to imagine we could do worse than Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Steve King (and Peter King. And Michele Bachman, and…)–but they will be our mistakes, not someone else’s.

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