HIPS has a 25-year track record providing judgement-free harm reduction services to sex workers and drugs users in DC, but it’s time to shake things up with an AWESOME project. HIPS’ current approach to distributing harm reduction supplies (e.g., needles, condoms, lube, and the life-saving overdose reversal drug Naloxone) has been for staff and volunteers to pass them out at the HIPS clinic and on an overnight outreach van. On overnight shifts, volunteers drive around the city from midnight to sunrise to distribute supplies in popular gathering areas for drug use and sex work. People across DC, however, need access to safer sex and injection supplies in far more places. For example, across DC there are “party and play” events where people, often young gay men of color, find that having a place to stay that night and a community to be a part of might be contingent on participating in high-risk drug use and sex. Though needles, condoms, lube, and Naloxone are particularly needed at this type of event, HIPS’ usual distribution channels do not reach there. Additionally, the recent passage of SESTA/FOSTA has driven many sex workers in DC to work in increasingly risky situations. Finally, the rise in opioid use across DC has outpaced the reach of HIPS’ traditional outreach channels. It’s time for HIPS to update its model and reinvigorate its client-led approach.
We propose a pilot that taps into the knowledge, expertise, and community connections of HIPS clients to ensure that harm reduction supplies are distributed where they are needed most--and where HIPS volunteers and staff fail to reach. We envision equipping long-time HIPS clients with the training and resources they need to help HIPS dramatically expand its distribution of harm reduction supplies. The pilot could demonstrate the viability and impact of applying a client-led approach to distributing harm reduction supplies, thus making expansion of the model possible in the future.
Funded by Washington, DC (December 2018)