GOP restores ban on needle-exchange funding It took AIDS activists 21 years to get Congress to restore federal funding for local programs that supply clean needles to drug users. It's taken Republicans a couple of months of hardball negotiations to get the ban reinstated. Legislation to fund government operations for 2012, which President Obama is about to sign, includes an amendment prohibiting federal spending on needle exchanges in both domestic and international programs. That was the law from 1988 until December 2009, when Obama signed a Democratic-sponsored appropriations bill lifting the restrictions. ... A 1997 study said HIV infection rates had dropped by 5.8 percent in 29 cities around the world with needle-exchange programs, and increased by 5.9 percent in 52 cities without them. A report in 2000 by David Satcher, surgeon general under President George H.W. Bush, said the programs reduce HIV transmission among vulnerable populations without increasing drug use. Opponents argue, however, that needle exchanges encourage the use of dangerous drugs and that federal funding undercuts the government's antidrug message.