People who use drugs face a variety of potentially life-threatening health challenges, including HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, soft tissue infections, and overdose. The prevalence and severity of these issues is partially explained by the risks associated with injecting or smoking drugs. The larger marginalization, stigmatization, and punishment of drug users are also important contributors to why this community avoids accessing healthcare and has poor health outcomes.
The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance (PHRA) is devoted to protecting the health and human rights of drug users. To make good on this commitment we distribute resources that minimize the risks associated with drug use. Throughout urban and rural Washington State PHRA distributes sterile syringes, pipes, and injection drug use equipment to prevent the transmission of diseases like HIV and incidence of bacterial infections. We also distribute Naloxone, a medication that can quickly reverse the effects of overdose and save lives, to opiate users throughout the Pacific Northwest region. This service is especially relevant because opiate overdose has become a leading cause of accidental death in many states, including Washington, killing hundreds of people in our region every year.
Finally – and most importantly – PHRA organizes drug users to design, implement, and operate their own services. Current and former drug users are represented at all levels of our organization, from PHRA’s frontline programs to our board of directors. This peer-run model of service not only allows us to reach drug users more effectively, it also ensures our programs remain needed and relevant to those we serve. And by facilitating the mobilization of drug users to protect their own health, PHRA’s programs help dismantle the systems of marginalization and stigmatization that have contributed to decades of death and disease in this community.