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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.

Ordinarily, the PreventionWorks folks would start a medical chart for him and work on getting him into classes and one of their programs right away.

One of the volunteers offered him a phone number and a rehab program that could take him on Tuesday.

"I don't know if I can make it till Tuesday," he said. "If you see something about a dead guy on the news, that'll be me."

You can find sympathy for him, right? He's trying.

And for all the other people this program is for. Safely disposing of dirty needles is about protecting the kids in the park who might come across one thrown in the bushes. It's for the sanitation worker who is a husband and father and gets stuck by a tainted needle tossed in an alley trash can. And it's for the wife of a drug user who has no idea what her husband is doing behind her back, but at least he's keeping himself - and her - virus-free.

The average cost of lifetime care for someone with HIV/AIDS is about $385,200. You know who's paying that in many cases. PreventionWorks was getting about $300,000 a year from the city budget. It collapsed while waiting for $130,000 in delayed funds. (Which is roughly five years of leasing one of D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown's (D) fully loaded SUVs.)

On Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) announced a new HIV/AIDS commission with 27 members.

Those 27 members are going to have a hard time replicating the work of one beige RV.


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