September 4, 2008

Picking Up Used Needles and Condoms--Time for True Unity

Of all complaints from neighbors, this one appears to be among the most serious ones: how can we get rid of used needles and condoms off our street, where they pose health risks?

Until several years ago, there was an organization named Danzine on SE Burnside, which handed out clean syringes at the storefront in order to reduce HIV and Hepatitis C infections spread through sharing of contaminated needles. Neighbors became concerned that some of these syringes ended up littered on the street after use, which posed a serious health threat.

Danzine responded by sending a crew of volunteers equipped with gears once a week to pick up and safely dispose of any needles, condoms, and other trash laying on the ground in the 12-block area surrounding its storefront. It was an ingenuous solution that protected substance users' health as well as everyone else's.

This is a practical, proven strategy to actually make our communities safer--safer from health hazards posed by contaminated materials on the ground. And it is something we could all get behind, regardless of what one thinks about Prostitution Free Zone or any other topics. Anyone else interested in working on this project?

Also: if we care enough about stopping people from littering used syringes, we should consider the fact that many do so because they fear, correctly, that it is legally risky to carry used syringes on them. In fact, severity of the penalty in a drug case may be directly linked to how many syringes one is caught with. Hence, more police crackdowns on drug users can cause more littering, unless the government is prevented from using one's possession of used syringes as an evidence in the court. Just a thought.

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