AIDS United Statement on Historic Safehouse Court Victory

AIDS United supports drug user health advocates across the United States in efforts to open safer consumption spaces—sites where people who use drugs can do so in a medically supervised setting with linkages to a host of support services—to help end the overdose crisis and prevent the spread of HIV and viral hepatitis. Yesterday we got one step closer to seeing that vision become a reality, as a district court ruled in favor of Safehouse in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in a misguided and harmful attempt to stop it from becoming the first operating safer consumption space in the nation.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh found that Safehouse’s operation would be legal under the current law, echoing what harm reduction advocates and a host of other nations already knew; that safer consumption spaces protect people who use drugs from overdose, link them to care, and do not lead to increased drug use.

“I cannot conclude that Safehouse has, as a significant purpose, the objective of facilitating drug use”, Judge McHugh wrote in his decision. “Safehouse plans to make a place available for the purposes of reducing the harm of drug use, administering medical care, encouraging drug treatment and connecting participants with social services.”

In 2016, AIDS United was the first national HIV advocacy organization to come out in support of safer consumption spaces and we have been committed to promoting and enabling their operation. In 2018, AIDS United’s Syringe Access Fund supported Safehouse with a grant to support their community education and advocacy efforts. Earlier this year, we joined a number of national and local public health organizations in developing and signing on to an Amicus Brief in support of Safehouse. We will continue to support and fight for efforts to establish safer consumption spaces and any other evidence-based and person-centered services for people who use drugs in the United States. This fight is not over by any means, but this decision is a huge step towards a U.S. drug policy based on science, not stigma. Saving lives should never be illegal and our nation’s drug laws should reflect that.

For more information on what AIDS United is doing to advocate for harm reduction policies for people who use drugs, check out our report on bringing safer consumption spaces to the United States and our work supporting the Syringe Access Fund.