Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Community Outreach, Syringe Exchange, Overdose Prevention
Harm Reduction includes handing out clean syrninges to IV drug users. They can come to a van the ASO has. It's parked in various areas of the most devastated areas of the epidemic and in high risk areas of IV drug use. Syringe exchange programs are often met with skeptisim and critsism by local communities, and law enforcement and other politicians. However, it is lack of education that feeds into this skeptisim and critisism. A drug user will not quit until they are ready to, so we must educate users on harm reduction techniqus. 1/4 of all new HIV infection are from IDU (intravenous drug users). When NYC implemented it's syringe exchange program 14 percent of new infection were from IDU, that number has not decrease by 2/3 as a result of this program.
We provide individuals with a months supply of clean syringes, and a sharps container to return they're needles. If people are going to shoot drugs, we want them to do so with a clean needle. "Sharing the works" with a dirty needle could infect everyone, so we encourage users to use their own clean needles. We educate them and provide them with bleach and water so that they can clean their needles, which reduces risk, if no bleach is available they can use water only which can still reduce risk. We also provide them with bottle caps. Bottle caps are used to mix drugs in and people shoot up the drugs with these caps. If people are sharing the same cap, they could be injecting infected blood. So, we provide these clean caps to reduce the risk.
Another Harm Reduction technique is Overdose Prevention. Particularly, for opiate users. For those experiencing an overdose, without the administration of Naloxone, or brand name Narcon; an overdose resulting in death is very likely. This drug immediately reverses an opiate overdose, and put's a user of opiates in immediate withdrawl. While it may save many lives, many people say they would rather die then take Narcon, because of the extreme and immediate withdrawl symptoms.
HIV and Hepatitis C testing is done on the van, and referrals. Referrals may include substance abuse refferals, or refering recently released inmates into the ASO re-entry program. Or, maybe they have no or inadequate insurance. We can refer them to someone in the ASO who can go over their options. The ASO can bridge an individual to care and services, such as medical care, housing and food stamps. We also promote a Women's only HIV + support group. And the ASO does in-house testing. We provide referrals to other testing locations as well.
So far, I have done one outreach event at a soup kitchen; and I was humbled sitting down for my first meal ever at a soup kitchen amongst 70 + others who rely on this meal each tuesday and thursday. The food was good, and I got to speak to people at my table, but most importantly show my face amongst the community I will be working in. This soup kitchen is put on by a church, it's reastaurant style. Volunteers cook and serve the food, drinks and do all the clean up. Today, was to be street outreach, but because of the bad weather it was cancelled.
I am looking forward to volunteering my time and getting deeper involved, and I will keep you posted about my work along the way, never though revealing information about any specific person! I hope you learned a bit from this entry. To learn even more about Harm Reduction I invite you to visit the website of the Harm Reduction Coalition
Knowlege is power! Stay safe!
"Rising Up, Standing Out, and Speaking up about HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C" -KM
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Posted by Kevin Maloney at 10:45 AM