Limary Guzman Lopez, University Of New Orleans
I would like to initiate a needle exchange program in the New Orleans area to help decrease the rates of HIV/AIDS infection among Injecting Drug Users (IDU).
After conducting some research, one of the goals I want to achieve is to develop a program that helps IDU’s get access to sterile syringes. A safe needle exchange program will substantially reduce the risk of spreading HIV/AIDS and Hep C between IDUs. After Hurricane Katrina most of the places that offered this kind of services closed, leaving a substantial population without help. Actually, I still can’t find any agency that can give me enough information about the available resources, the NOPD included in the ones that have no idea if there is still something available. The first step would be to get the updated information about the agencies or people, if any, involved in harm reduction programs in the area. And also to get updated statistics about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the percentage of infections as a result of needle sharing. The data I found was from 2001, at that time, 59% of infected IDUs reported sharing needles all the time or some of the time, 84% of them reported unprotected sex and 44% reported that they exchanged money or drugs for sex at least once. We must be aware that this is a problem that needs to be attacked at the root, but that we can’t just cut the tree from it. Needle exchange programs help people that are unable or unwilling to stop drug use make decisions that will benefit their health as well as the community in general by minimizing exposure.
I plan to attend training sessions about case management and other themes related to substance abuse, high risk behavior and blood borne pathogens. After that I would have to find funds to buy the necessary equipment, and other volunteers to get involved. I will organize activities to get these funds, probably by talking to several musicians in the area to get a percentage of the ticket sales or organize concerts or events to raise money to acquire and distribute the equipment. It will be a long way but I’m confident it will happen.