March 23, 2012
About five-dozen members attend regular biweekly meetings of the San Francisco Drug Users Union. SFDUU, which held its first gatherings in 2010, is based in the city's Tenderloin district. In the next few months, the group will present testimony to a city panel on housing discrimination; co-host the first US conference by and for drug users; and hold a design contest for a supervised injection site, where medical workers would provide users sterile injection equipment and harm-reduction tips, and guard against overdoses.
The city Hepatitis C Task Force in 2010 recommended piloting a supervised injection site. Mayor Ed Lee and city Public Health Director Barbara Garcia do not support it. The city does, however, fund an overdose prevention education group that provides antidotes and training to opiate users.
SFDUU neither discourages nor encourages drug use. Words like "addict" and "abuser" are avoided. Shaming and blaming are disallowed, and on-site drug use and dealing are prohibited. People can come in high, though being disruptive is not tolerated. Neither is injecting at meetings or workshops; but just in case, a sharps box is provided in a bathroom whose door latch is easily breakable in case of a health emergency.
The Harm Reduction Therapy Center holds the lease to the space and provides the group financial support. The room features no-nonsense pamphlets about drugs, disease, and overdose. This month, SFDUU expects to release a manual to help medical personnel offer better emergency care for drug users. San Francisco General Hospital, which already provides a wound-care clinic for injection drug users, also works with SFDUU to warn about bad drugs on the street.