When I lived in DC, I worked at an immunology lab, and I volunteered for Prevention Works, Washington, DC's beleaguered needle exchange program. Ron Daniels was one of the staff members who was often on the van supervising sessions where I was a volunteer. I did simple work like counting out new needles and giving them out to people, or explaining the basics of the program to new participants, while Ron and others would be talking to people about tougher stuff, like drug treatment options and doing HIV testing.
Ron and people like Ron are incredibly inspiring to me. For anyone who becomes a part of Prevention Works or supports it, needle exchange is a great way to make a difference. But for people like Ron Daniels, needle exchange is not just that; it's also a way of reclaiming the meaning and value of their own lives, and the lives of many other people as well. It's a beautiful thing.
Ron Daniels was recently in the New York Times in an article that gives a little bit of hope that maybe the Democratic Congress will finally take off the obscene funding restrictions that prevent the DC city government from spending its own local tax money on needle exchange. This restriction is not only a terrible piece of public health policy, it's an insult to the people of Washington, DC, who should have a right to make their own political choices. (For more about the wisdom of this choice, check this recent quick .pdf summary of the benefits of needle exchange programs.)
Lots of Washingtonians need what Ron Daniels and the other staff and volunteers of Prevention Point have to give. Please tell your congressional representative to lift the ban on funding. But until the Congress finally gets out of DC's way, I can't think of a better or more effective place to spend your philanthropic dollar. Here's a link to give the money that Republicans from Missouri and Oklahoma won't.
(And thanks to John S. for sending the NYT article around to an email list to which I subscribe.)
video: uploaded on Current TV, a video about Prevention Point's work.