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End of needle exchange marks loss of a bulwark in D.C.'s AIDS fight

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The District's largest needle exchange program, Prevention Works, closed its doors on Feb. 25 after exchanging about 100,000 needles for 2,200 people last year. Its closure leaves many without a resource for clean needles.

There are other addicts like her, people who are not totally gone, who live a Jekyll-and-Hyde existence, alternating between drug chaos and a cardigan life with a job and kids.

For them is the sign in the RV that reads:

"There are times and situations where a non-judgmental attitude can be about life and death."

A stout, muscular guy from a meat delivery company walked by. He had no idea what the RV was for and snickered when the female volunteers standing outside asked him whether he wanted some condoms.

When he figured it out, he backed away, waving his hands in front of him: "I don't do that stuff," he told them.

"Do you know your status?" one of the volunteers asked. He looked puzzled. "Your HIV status?" she said.

"Oh. Well, no. I mean, I don't think I could have it. But I guess I could," he stammered.

"It only takes 20 minutes to get your results," she told him.

So the meat man walked in, got the inside of his cheek swabbed and emerged with a grin on his face. Negative. Whew.

And then came a guy sweating and rocking, near tears.

The RV tipped and squeaked as he stepped into it, and he settled into the chair.

"I'm telling you. I'm not a bad dude. I need to kick this. I want to kick this," he told the women working the van. "I just want to get detoxed. I want a 90-day program or something. Just anything."


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