Fighting Poverty with Passion
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has affected many millions around the globe. In the 80’s the focus of the cause was on homosexual males. Today the greatest transmission of HIV/AIDS virus is through IV drug use. NO AIDS Task Force in the Greater New Orleans area is one of the largest and oldest AIDS service organizations in the south.
With these alarming statistics, advocates began to speak out and The New Orleans Syringe Access Program (NOSAP) was created in 2006. During this time there were over 45,000 people across the state using IV drugs which was a 1/4 of the population living in New Orleans.
NOSAP is located inside the Community Awareness (CAN) office which is an extension of NO AIDS Task Force. The CAN office is located on the outskirts of the French Quarter. You would never realize on a Friday afternoon that this service is being provided discreetly. The street is lined with music stores, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Many tourists and the younger population homeless can be seen. The office’s original purpose was to serve gay men to help reduce, prevent and stop the spreading of the HIV/AIDS, it has many services such HIV/AIDS testing, Hepatitis C testing, education, condom distribution, and the needle exchange. Even though NOSAP is a legal needle exchange, drug paraphernalia is still illegal to possess in the state of Louisiana.
As a volunteer for the past year to NOSAP, it’s amazing the gratitude we get from our clients. We serve about 100-125 clients every Friday in a two hour time frame. We distribute between 10,000 to 14,000 needles weekly. Over the past three years we have seen over 4,000 participants and dispensed/provided 500,000 syringes. Our clients range from 18 years old to 75 years old and are from all walks of life. Our average participate is a white male 20 years old to 30 years old. With the heroin epidemic in our city since January, I have been aware of at least four deaths and many overdoses from our clients due to the deadly dose of heroin mixed with fentanyl. NOSAP is providing a great service to addicts but we need to address the real problem in our community. New Orleans has only one free detoxification program for this on growing problem. As of August of 2016, there have been 28 related deaths. Along with the prevention of the spread of the virus and Hep C we have a much bigger problem OPIATE ADDICTION that is plaguing our city and the entire United States.