Monday, February 18, 2008

Activists Celebrate Federal Funding of D.C.'s Anti-AIDS Needle Exchange

This development, as I reported in, comes as Democratic candidates campaign against the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs designed to reduce rates of HIV and AIDS in communities the epidemic has hit hard. Washington is one such city. And activists will certainly continue to use Congress' decision to allow the District to fund these programs to pressure Capitol Hill to lift the ban on federal funding of these initiatives.

As activists and public health officials continue to push Congress to lift the ban on federally funded syringe-exchange programs, a number of LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations gathered on Capitol Hill to commemorate congressional funding of these initiatives in the District of Columbia.

Congress voted last year to allow only the district, which it supports and over which it has special oversight, to fund these programs as part of its efforts to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Washington, D.C. has one of the country's highest rates of new infections. Channing Wickham, executive director of the Washington AIDS Partnership, contends syringe-exchange programs are an effective way to curb the epidemic.

"With the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the country, the Washington AIDS Partnership is pleased that the District of Columbia will at last be able to spend local tax dollars on this life-saving HIV prevention strategy," Wickham said. "After many years of effort by a broad coalition of advocates, it is encouraging to see that common sense and the unquestioned efficacy of syringe exchange to slow the rate of new HIV infections have prevailed."

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese agreed. "With HIV and AIDS threatening public health, the end of the ban on the district using its funds to operate syringe-exchange programs in Washington is long overdue," Solmonese said.

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services enacted the ban in 1988 with the stipulation that allowed the department's chief to determine if syringe exchange programs reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS without increasing rates of intravenous drug use.

Then-Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala issued a statement supporting these initiatives in 1998 while Surgeon General David Satcher concluded in 2000 that syringe-exchange programs are effective as part of a comprehensive HIV/AIDS strategy.

Numerous scientific studies, including a 2004 report published by the World Health Organization, further indicate syringe-exchange programs reduce HIV/AIDS rates without increased drug use. More than 200 programs now exist at locations across the country, including Positive Health Project in New York, the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland in Ohio, Access Works in Minneapolis, Prevention Point Philadelphia and Clean Needles Now in Los Angeles.

Activists contend Congress needs to allocate federal funds nationwide to further reduce HIV/AIDS rates.

"We call on Congress to follow its own lead and tremendous success in ending the D.C. ban by ending the federal ban as well," said Ronald Johnson, deputy executive director of AIDS Action.

Solmonese praised U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-Washington, D.C., and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill who back federal funding of these programs. He again reiterated his call to lift the ban.

"We salute congressional leaders for leading the effort to repeal this harmful policy and urge Congress to end the federal ban," Solmonese said.


Positive Health Project said...

Thank you for identifying Positive Health Project (PHP) in your article. For those who do not know about PHP here is some info:

Our mission is to reduce the spread of HIV by providing health and prevention services designed for people who use drugs, including injection drugs users, club drug users, sex workers, transgenders, women and the homeless.

Our philosophy is based on harm reduction. We respect people who are using drugs and work with them to improve their quality of life and overall health. We work with people "where they're at."

Our programs assist people in preventing the spread of HIV and we provide services to people who are HIV positive. Positive Health Project is an advocate for substance users and for those who are HIV positive. We serve as a bridge to other services such as: drug treatment, medical care, housing and education.

Since the summer of 1993 Positive Health Project (PHP) has assisted some of New York City's most challenged residents. PHP's participants include injecting drug users, sex workers, transgender individuals, people who are homeless or precariously housed, residents recently released from New York's correctional system and people addicted to crack/cocaine and other illicit substances. PHP offers its services in the heart of the Chelsea and Clinton communities, steps from Port Authority Bus Terminal, Times Square and Penn Station.

In May 1994, PHP has offered street outreach, support groups, counseling and a safe haven to any substance user who needed respite from the chaos of street living. A year later, PHP began offering comprehensive harm reduction services, including syringe exchange, from its own offices in the middle of the Chelsea Community. Positive Health Project's service delivery continuum has been built on the 'one-stop shop' concept out of a belief that PHP's distinctive participants require that as many services as possible be offered from a single location. This is the only way to increase the likelihood that participants will return for care, develop trust, access a variety of services, and develop a willingness to engage in less risky behaviors.

To date, PHP is the only organization in New York City to receive Ryan White Title II funding targeted for HIV positive people of color who are transgender individuals. PHP's funders and public supporters include officials at both the federal, state and city levels who recognized the importance of reaching some of NYC's most isolated residents. PHP has successfully gained support from Congressman, Jerrold Nadler, New York State Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, New York State Senator Thomas K. Duane, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, New York City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, and New York City Council Member Christine Quinn.
PHP has worked aggressively to promote effective and long-standing ties with local businesses including the Fashion Business Improvement District and the members of Community Board 4. Both these organizations have been crucially important in PHP's social service expansion in the heart of the Garment District, including the delivery of onsite medical care. Over time, PHP's management has been successful in cultivating effective relationships with the Police and Criminal Justice System. PHP has become the first NYC agency in the last four years to gain approval as a community service site for the Midtown Community Court (Manhattan's drug court) and to operate onsite support groups for transgender defendants arrested for sex work. PHP's relationship with the Midtown South Police Precinct has led to a number of initiatives including security for PHP's participants to avoid arrest for syringe possession; technical assistance training for the police on current New York State syringe exchange policy and procedures. Midtown Police and the Street Narcotics Unit regularly refer individuals arrested for drugs to access services at PHP.

PHP has also gained significant international recognition for its technical assistance expertise. PHP's senior staff have conducted workshops and trainings at several international and national conferences on HIV/AIDS, harm reduction, hepatitis, and drug policy. Since its modest beginnings as a small syringe exchange serving very disenfranchised New Yorkers, Positive Health Project has grown into a multi-service organization with an international reputation for effective service delivery.

For more infomation contact Robert Childs, MPH at

Anonymous said...

Former Executive Director and Founder of Positive Health Project, Inc - It is nice to do a google search and find a wonderful article written about such an important issue and see that the agency I founded in 1993 has been mentioned and highlighted as an example of a world class harm reduction center. What has made PHP successful over the years is its unique co-location of many services all under one roof, one-stop-shopping. Additionally we address drug use as a common issue among our clients which breaks barriers of gender, sexual orientation, and race. Needles to say any one who walks into the agency will be able to find a staff person that resembles them, gay, straight, transgender, african american, latino and be able to provide accurate information about drug use risks, drug treatment options, HIV, STDs and other related info. What has made PHP stand out from other harm reduction agencies is its on site medical care being the first medical clinic in a needle exchange program for drug users. I am proud to say that upon opening the agency we were offering hormone injections for our transgender clients as well as free HIV testing. Once the clinic was opened we offered primary medical care and dental services. Finally drug users were getting access to HCV treatment, HAART medications and other treatments that were denied to drug users. I wish DC the best and I know that there are a great group of dedicated people working at the newly funded programs. Lets hope that after all this work to get them legal they will remain intact and year after year.

Jason Farrell,
founder and former executive director

Mr. Farrell resigned in 2006 to pursue consulting and tend to personal health matters. Presently he has a consulting company called Harm Reduction Consulting Services, Inc. (HRCS),
Since 2003, Harm Reduction Consulting Services, Inc. (HRCS) has designed and facilitated more than 50 different technical assistance trainings in harm reduction theory and practice; syringe exchange laws and programs; and HIV/viral hepatitis prevention and treatment services for substance users. HRCS founder and CEO, Mr. Jason Farrell has been acknowledged as a leading expert in the design and implementation of HIV and viral hepatitis prevention services, primary care facilities and outreach strategies targeting the most difficult to reach high risk populations. One of HRCS most recent projects was to revise and update a science-based HIV and viral hepatitis prevention intervention for active drug users diffused by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The prevention intervention entitled ‘Safety Counts’ was one of the first science-based risk behavior modification interventions to be disseminated nationwide through the Dissemination of Effective Behavioral Interventions (DEBI) program in part of the CDC’s new initiative, Advancing HIV Prevention (AHP).

HRCS strives to enhance the development of policies, procedures, and secure funding for organizations to acquire and sustain quality HIV/viral hepatitis prevention, primary health care, and support services for substance users living with or without HIV and viral hepatitis. HRCS offers a range of services that will accommodate many organizations staffing, and budget.

HRCS mission is to increase the development, implementation and provision of prevention, health care, and support services for substance users living with or at risk for contracting blood borne viruses (BBV) such as HIV and viral hepatitis by providing education, trainings and policy recommendations.

Jason Farrell, CEO
Harm Reduction Consulting Services, Inc