By Mark Powell
Bringing Syringe Exchange out of the Darkness
Sometimes, helping draw attention to one issue can lead to addressing another. That’s precisely what happened with Prevention Point Philadelphia.
Its story started nearly 30 years ago. Back during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, a group called Act UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) wanted to direct attention to the disease and encourage more treatment for it. Activists discovered there was a 95% infection rate among IV drug users. So, Prevention Point began as an underground syringe exchange program in Philadelphia designed to help people stay well.
“Everything changed in 1992 when then-Mayor Ed Rendell signed an executive order making syringe exchange legal in the city. Prevention Point grew from there,” says Jose Benitez, Executive Director of Prevention Point Philadelphia. Prevention Point’s growth has been particularly rapid in recent years.
Prevention Point offers a broad range of medical and non-medical services,” he says. “Som