"Hey, Blue!" the drug addict shouted. "What's up, man? Ain't seen you around here for a long time."

Blue smiled at the addict, then beckoned him to come over. He dug deep into the white bag under his arm and pulled out some pamphlets and a fistful of condoms. "Read this, man," he said. "It's something you really need to know about."

The neighborhood, at Eighth and N streets NW, is known as "the Graveyard." Some old churches and other abandoned buildings have become shooting galleries -- where addicts go to inject drugs. And addicts are doing something else at shooting galleries these days: They are getting AIDS.

Earnest (Blue) Telfaire spent years of his life in places like the Graveyard. Now a former addict, he is one of 15 outreach workers who go into the city's invisible neighborhoods to fight an epidemic.

"When we come out here, people know us," said Aaron Green, 40, director of the District's outreach program called Spectrum. He, too, is a former intravenous drug user. "These same people who are hooked on drugs and use these needles to get a fix are the people we grew up with," said Green.

"We know how to reach these people because at one time, we were out there, too," said Dwight Clark, another outreach worker.

Spectrum is the city's $200,000 effort to educate the city's i.v. drug users, a large percentage of whom are black, about the disease that is ravaging their numbers.

There have been 904 recorded cases of AIDS in the city. Sixty-eight, or 7 percent, of them contracted the disease by sharing needles, health officials believe. Direct blood-to-blood transmission is the most efficient way to transmit the deadly virus, which is also passed through sexual intercourse.

The Spectrum program includes cultural sensitivity sessions, individual counseling and on-the-street education, which the counselors refer to as "polite aggression." They try to teach not only drug users about the danger of AIDS but also prostitutes and black gays, many of whom are not reached by the predominantly white,

middle-class gay organizations that first mobilized against the epidemic.

William (Sonny) Cunningham, another of the counselors, says selling and using drugs was a way of life for 20 of his 43 years. "My mere presence may be an inspiration for someone to get out of this trap," he says.

One of the prostitutes who works in the Graveyard area tells of being more than trapped -- she's terrified. Not only is she concerned about the number of clients she sees -- as many as five in a night -- but now she's haunted by the fear of getting AIDS.

"A lot of my dates have them {condoms} now," she said. "I've had to turn down some money because some of them didn't have them, but now I carry them for my protection."

As federal authorities continue to debate over the best way to run a national AIDS education campaign, local governments and private groups have stepped in with organizations like Spectrum to fight the spread of AIDS on a local level.

"Some people out in the trenches every day say they are showing results; others are very frustrated. AIDS is not an easy problem to attack," said Paula VanNess, director of the National AIDS Information and Education Program for the CDC. "You can't just write off human beings, but realistically, some will never be reached."

Dr. Samuel Broder, a leading AIDS researcher at the National Cancer Institute, agrees that "doctors are not always the best people to communicate information about AIDS. Often a role model, a person with whom others have something in common, are the best relayers of information." For the former addicts involved in the program, it is both frustrating and rewarding.

"My basic theory is that we can't hold nobody's hand," said Green. "We simply make the message and information available to the masses by using the best techniques that we have."

Green added: "When you get a person on the streets to stop what they are doing and read, that's progress. These people aren't so far removed that they don't know about the disease (AIDS) . . . they're not stupid. But they like to feel that someone is out there who cares." ::

In Southeast Washington, counselor Nathan Evans stands in front of an old laundromat, part of a neighborhood shopping complex at the corner of Stanton Road and Alabama Avenue, with a stack of Spectrum brochures in his hand. The sun is setting, casting an amber tone on the housing project just across the avenue, another neighborhood fighting drug use.

"It's a miracle," he said. "I can see a time when that was a life style that I created for myself. And today, instead of being on the inside looking out, I'm on the outside looking in."