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Syringe Exchange Program in D.C. March 4, 2010

Posted by Anita Balan in Prevention, Wellness.
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Washington D.C. has 3% of its residents living with HIV/AIDS. This rate is highest in the nation. According to December 2005 fact sheet CDC estimates that almost one fifth of all HIV infections are transmitted by Intravenous Drug Use (IDU). As an emerging public health professional who believes in prevention, and harm reduction, I think it is, once again, time to look at the benefits of needle exchange or Syringe Exchange Programs  (SEP) and the ways in which it is beneficial to prevent the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C.

SEP has been implemented in this country for more than twenty years and has helped in reducing the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C. The way it works is very simple: Those who share needles, either to inject drugs or hormones can exchange their used needles for sterile ones.  This prevents users from sharing contaminated needles with one another thereby preventing the spread of HIV, Hepatitis C and other blood borne diseases . SEP is administered throughout the country including D.C. by hundreds of not-for-profit and community- based organizations. SEP has been proven to  cost-effective, effective in reducing transmission and overall rates of HIV and Hepatitis C and do not promote substance use/abuse. SEP also reduce the sharing of needles among users and encourage users to use sterile needles until they are ready to quit using.

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Housing = Prevention. Housing Saves Lives January 21, 2010

Posted by Anita Balan in Blogging, Environmental Health, Mental Health, Prevention, Wellness.
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If you are resident of Metro Washington, and interested in DC’s health issues, you would have come across a series of expose articles in Washington Post entitled – Wasting Away: The Squandering of D.C. AIDS dollars. Washington D.C has the nation’s highest prevalence of HIV at 3%. Currently there are over 440 homeless people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the district. These people are on the waitlist of Housing Opportunities for People with HIV/AIDS (HOPWA) program – a federal program that was introduced in 1992 that allocates funds for subsidizing temporary and long-term stable housing for PLWHA. Affected people and their families could wait for several years before they are given a voucher. The waiting time is much longer for those who pursue public housing accommodations through section 8.  The expose articles were followed by a series of tug-of-war between the D.C. City Council, the Mayor’s office and federal department of Housing and Urban Development which manages the HOPWA program. HUD which initially threatened to withhold all of D.C. 12.2 million dollars, until D.C. got its act together, has now withdrawn its threat. But in the midst of this heated debate, what was absent was raising awareness and sharing the importance of HIV and Housing.

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