The following is a statement from AIDS United Vice President for Policy and Advocacy William McColl in response to reports that the Justice Department has filed suit in a Pennsylvania Federal Court, seeking to prevent the opening of a first-of-its-kind safer consumption space (also known as supervised injection facility), in Philadelphia:
February 7, 2019, Washington, DC – “AIDS United is deeply troubled by the Justice Department’s efforts to prevent the opening of the nation’s first safer consumption space at Philadelphia’s Safehouse. Their decision seems rooted in ideology, rather than science. As our nation’s drug poisoning crisis worsens — approximately 72,000 people died in 2017 from an overdose in the U.S. — municipalities and other local governments are desperately searching for evidence-based strategies that might reduce overdose deaths and limit the infectious disease consequences of syringe sharing.
“Research indicates that safer consumption spaces are effective at reducing overdose fatalities, hospitalizations, and infectious disease transmission, while also increasing initiation and retention in health care, leading to better long-term substance use treatment outcomes. They are also cost effective. In a report commissioned by the City of Philadelphia in 2018, the total value of overdose deaths averted from just one safer consumption space was found to be between $12 and $74 million annually.
“Just this week the President announced his plan to end the HIV epidemic in the United States. Safer consumption spaces can have a critical role in achieving this goal, which is why it is important to allow jurisdictions to establish pilot sites. A holistic approach to drug user health and prevention, which includes a spectrum of evidence-based prevention, treatment and social services to maximize quality of life and health outcomes, is necessary to combat the opioid, HIV, and viral hepatitis crises in our country. Safer consumption spaces are part of that spectrum, and our government should not impede these efforts.”
About Safer Consumption Spaces:
Safer Consumption Spaces are protected places for the hygienic consumption of pre-obtained drugs in a non-judgmental environment and under the supervision of trained staff. In December 2018 AIDS United and Project Inform released a report examining current efforts to bring safer consumption spaces to the United States. The report offers strategies for extending funding and advocating for legally sanctioned safer consumption spaces in a manner that focuses on the leadership and needs of people who use drugs. Download the report here.
About AIDS United:
AIDS United’s mission is to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S. through strategic grant-making, capacity building, and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS-related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $104 million to local communities and have leveraged more than $117 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction, and advocacy. www.aidsunited.org