Global advocates for harm reduction—an approach to drug use that favors public health and education over law enforcement—are applauding President Barack Obama's approval of federal funding of needle and syringe exchanges to curb the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users, The Christian Science Monitor reports. His decision reversed a decades-old ban on such programs.

At the International Harm Reduction Association's annual conference this week in Bangkok, officials from the group said that Obama's new policy could have global benefits.

“The U.S. has been a big block on harm reduction at the international political level…. It's beginning to change, and it's changed quite suddenly,” said the association's executive director Gerry Stimson.

Harm reduction advocates hope Obama revamps U.S. policy to provide financial backing to international harm reduction programs in developing countries, noting that the administration has yet to alter the current U.S. ban on foreign funding for needle exchanges.