Harm Reduction Futures Fund: An Impact Introduction

In 2024, AIDS United will celebrate our Harm Reduction Futures Fund (HRFF), formally known as the Syringe Access Fund, to recognize its 20 years of uplifting the Harm Reduction community. HRFF continues this work for harm reduction programs nationwide, especially where services are needed most critically.  

The HRFF works to reduce all disparities people who use drugs tend to face, whether socioeconomic, social or health. By investing in evidence-based and community-driven approaches to prevent HIV and viral hepatitis transmissions, reduce injection-related injuries, increase overdose prevention and reversal efforts. The initiative also supports efforts to increase local, state, and national initiatives to expand access to community-based syringe service programs.  

Interested in the ABCs of Harm Reduction at AIDS United? You can learn more here. We’re passionate believers that a syndemic approach is the best way to tackle the HIV epidemic, and we’re also working to broaden the conversation, both to the public and to funders, on why funding harm reduction is a critically overlooked part of this fight for a variety of reasons.  

As we look forward, we’re also looking back at our past successes from partnering organizations and grantees. Below are a few highlighted impact stories from our work: 

Gwayakobimaadiziwin Bad River Harm Reduction Program has been awarded support from AIDS United’s Syringe Access Fund, and more recently, the Harm Reduction Futures Fund (HRFF), since 2018. We are a full-service harm reduction program operating through the Bad River Tribal Government. HRFF has provided critical support to keep our program running and help us to achieve our goals of employing and supporting the leadership of people with lived and living experience using drugs.  

During the last funding cycle, which began in February 2022, and with the support of the HRFF, the Bad River Tribe was able to hire the first paid staff position in harm reduction. We would not have been able to hire for this position without HRFF support, and our program would have shut down without a paid staff position. Leveraging funds offered by HRFF, the Bad River Tribe was able to secure a larger contract in 2022, to grow and expand the program. We currently have 3 full time positions in harm reduction, with 6 additional community members contracted to provide essential harm reduction services by delivery in a remote and rural four-county region of northern Wisconsin. We have also partnered with NextDistro to offer harm reduction supplies throughout the State of Wisconsin via mail order.  

All current staff members and those under contract are Native Americans with lived and living experience using drugs and directly impacted by overdose. Support from HRFF has supported one of the Tribe’s most important harm reduction goals of expanding workforce opportunities for people with lived and living experience as an economic recovery strategy of a community significantly impacted by mass incarceration and opioid overdoses. 

In addition, throughout the years, AIDS United has provided us with tremendously valuable technical support for building a strong harm reduction program. We have benefitted greatly from educational programs and opportunities to network with other harm reduction programs in the Midwest and nationally facilitated by AIDS United. The Harm Reduction Futures Fund is staffed by an extraordinary group of leaders in the field. We are proud of our long-standing collaborative partnerships with AIDS United’s Harm Reduction Futures Fund.

Bronx Móvil is a bilingual mutual aid collective and harm reduction organization that has been hitting the streets of The Bronx and Washington Heights in Manhattan since 2018. Mutual aid members donated the funds for the car rental but to become sustainable over time – and extend our hours and geography of outreach – we needed our own vehicle. Much of our funding — and the first came in as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic — did not allow for the purchase of the vehicle (alas! the limits of small philanthropic funds and governmental rules). The AIDS United Harm Reduction Futures Fund grant was used for the purchase of Appa, lovingly named by the community, a gently used SUV. Having Appa is liberating. We added an evening of outreach and are not constrained by the time of pick up and return of a rental. Car rental was expensive! And the funding that would go for this expense is now going into harm reduction kits, urban living supplies, pay for Community Leaders and added nutritional support for participants.

“The Syringe Access Fund / Harm Reduction Futures Fund award was transformational for our small organization. Based in [our city] where syringe exchange remains illegal, it was one of only two sources of grant funding that supported the purchase of syringes and cookers, which are at the core of what we do. Over our organization’s two and half year lifespan we’ve met with many community partners, including [our city]-bimmediately upon the legalization of syringe exchange in our state. Legislation to do so has failed to pass in [our state] It’s thanks to bold funders like AIDS United that we are able to do that work that we do — work that has a huge impact on people who live in a harm reduction desert.

Interested in getting more information or joining the Harm Reduction Futures Fund? Sign up here and help us break the stigma and improve drug user (or community) health.