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Local and Community News

Cutting Funds for Detroit's Life Points Program Will Doom Many to AIDS, Other Infections

May 20, 2003

Drugs and sex are leading commodities in Cass Park: sex for drugs or sex for money to buy drugs. Harry Simpson, who helps run the Life Points needle exchange program for the Community Health Awareness Group in Detroit, is an AIDS prevention expert in minority communities. A former heroin addict, Simpson knows what it is like to want a fix so bad you feel like you are going to die. Over the past four months, Simpson has hit the streets and interviewed, anonymously, about 200 injection drug users in five cities as part of a state HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention study.

A 43-year-old prostitute who uses heroin about 40 times a week said she wants her sexual partners to use condoms. But if they refuse, she goes along, for the money. She tries to use clean needles when she shoots up, but if one is not handy, she will use a dirty one. On the day Simpson spoke with her, she pulled a handful of dirty needles from a small purse and received an equal number of clean ones.

Drug users in the Cass Park area know to look for the silver Life Points van. The van goes to 10 sites at regular times around Detroit. The exchange is always one-to-one. Most people also pick up free condoms.

In Detroit, most needle exchange workers are former addicts. They do not look down on their clients or make them feel even worse about themselves. They call them "brother" and "sister," and mean it. Life Point has more than 2,500 drug users signed up for services, and its workers have gotten 20 percent of their clients into treatment.

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Life Point's budget, $216,000 last year, will be cut in half this year. That will mean fewer sites and a 50 percent reduction in services, said CHAG Executive Director Cindy Bolden Calhoun. Life Points lost a $25,000 grant from the Tides Foundation, and has not gotten the $89,000 it received last year from the city of Detroit. The Michigan AIDS Fund has also reduced funding because it has less money to give.

Back to other CDC news for May 20, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Detroit Free Press
05.19.03; Jeff Gerritt


  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
More on Needle Exchange & HIV/AIDS in Other U.S. States
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