February 24, 2011

The disheartening loss of PreventionWorks!

TodayTomorrow, DC is losing an historic front-line stalwart in the fight against the AIDS epidemic: PreventionWorks! is closing.

PreventionWorks! is “the grandaddy of needle exchange” in DC. Their efforts began in the late 90s, well before it became clear how necessary this preventive strategy really is. In the face of a federal ban on funding for needle exchange programs in the District, which left most community health operations feeling hamstrung on the matter, PreventionWorks! grew larger and more determined. Bread for the City soon joined them in this work. We received needle exchange training from PreventionWorks!, and operated the program despite the federal funding ban. We funded the program with private dollars given by people like you, because needle exchange is quite simply one of the most effective tools in the effort to stop the spread of HIV.

“We did it because we don’t just stick our heads in the sand,” says our deputy director, Jeannine Sanford, about the decision. “Bread for the City does what’s going to save lives. We do what works.”

PreventionWorks! worked. Research has shown that cities with needle exchange programs see substantial decrease in infection rates, and PreventionWorks! worked hard to fill the gap in the District caused by congressional meddling. This is a true blow to the health of our entire city.

Bread for the City won’t be able to fully fill the gap left by PreventionWorks! -- especially in far-flung areas of the District which were only reached by their mobile clinics, and where the need is greatest. But we do anticipate an increase in need at our service centers, and we are already preparing to meet it as best as we can.

So we’re asking for your help. Please give today to support our needle exchange program.

Especially in the face of renewed efforts in Congress to inhibit the District’s ability to provide services like these, we need to rally our support for a healthy community now more than ever.

Our sincere thanks and respect go out to the staff and volunteers at PreventionWorks!, and our encouragement goes out to their clients. Lastly, we too want to echo the sentiment expressed by the PreventionWorks! board of directors in their letter to the community:

"Above all, we acknowledge the courage and resilience of the PreventionWorks! clients themselves, who, despite the disease and stigma of drug use, have continued to persevere through their journeys of recovery in a society that has failed to provide adequate and effective resources for people struggling with addiction."

Please stand with them and us in this time of need.

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