Prevention Halts

Needle-exchange organization to end services at month's end

For the past 12 years, PreventionWorks! has played a vital role in minimizing the spread of HIV and other blood-born illnesses, reducing injections with used needles by providing access to sterile syringes to drug users and others in Washington, among other harm-reduction strategies.

On Feb. 25, however, PreventionWorks!, which started in 1996 as a project of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, will come to an end.

”The PreventionWorks! Board of Directors feels great sadness and disappointment toward this ending, but made the difficult decision based on financial realities,” reads a statement on the organization’s website.

”Recent government support was critical to giving PreventionWorks! the potential for staying power, but unfortunately the organization was ultimately unable to build and sustain the financial and organizational capacity worthy of its work. As a result, the Board of Directors decided to close the agency so supporters could turn their resources and volunteerism to more sustainable organizations.”

Currently PreventionWorks! does not have an executive director. The last person to work in that role was Dr. Philip B. Terry, who served through December 2010.

Speaking to Metro Weekly, Terry said the closure is ”disappointing.”

”This was an organization that was working with segments of our population of our city that are the most marginalized – drug users, transgender individuals,” he said, ”so it’s sad, it’s very sad.”

Terry added that there are three other programs in the District that provide needle-exchange services: Bread for the City, Family Medical and Counseling Services and Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS).

Cyndee Clay, executive director at HIPS, says her organization’s needle-exchange services are offered Monday through Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. at their offices, 1309 Rhode Island Ave. NE, No. 2B. HIPS also conducts mobile outreach in various areas of the District.

”We’re trying to make sure that people aren’t sharing syringes,” Clay says. ”We want people to have access to sterile syringes for any injecting that they’re doing. We know that people are injecting hormones, specifically the transgender community. People are injecting drugs, steroids, all kinds of things – we just want to make sure that people have access to sterile syringes, because re-using a syringe, even on yourself, has a potential for harm. And then we want to make sure that people have access to healthy education and information.”

To read the full statement regarding PreventionWorks!’s closure, visit preventionworksdc.org. For more on HIPS, call 202-232-8150 or visit hips.org.

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