By Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 25, 2008
Needle-exchange efforts in the District will expand significantly by summer as $494,000 in city funding -- the first local appropriation allowed in a decade -- begins flowing to four organizations on the front line of the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Last summer, Congress lifted a ban prohibiting the city from spending its tax dollars to provide drug addicts with clean needles, an approach that jurisdictions across the country have taken to stop the disease's transmission through shared, potentially contaminated syringes. No other city or state faced the same restriction, which dated to 1998.
More than half the money will go to PreventionWorks!, the sole group involved in such work during the ban, often despite tenuous private funding. It now will expand outreach to include more comprehensive disease screening of the people served through its mobile van.
Shannon Hader, director of the city's HIV/AIDS Administration, said yesterday that the other nonprofit groups that were awarded grants bring "three very different" approaches to the initiative.
Those recipients are Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), whose focus is men and women engaged in sex work in the District; Bread for the City, which assists the poor and homeless with a range of programs; and the Family Medical and Counseling Service, a more traditional health care provider in Ward 8.
Each will build on the work it does with intravenous drug users, Hader said. The grants are expected to double next year and be continued through 2010.
The District's rates of HIV and AIDS infection are among the worst in the country, with intravenous drug users accounting for a sizable portion of new cases annually.