Why I Offer Clean Needles in Jesus' Name
Since I needed a place to begin, I started to connect with events and organizations important to the HIV community, with the objective to "show up and shut up." I made an appointment with the program manager of HIV/AIDS Services, Inc., a man named Dave, the organization's only employee. I found him in a rented, closet-sized office within a building called "The Network"—known around town as the gay building. It's in an eclectic part of GR, behind the only store that caters to customers interested in New Age materials. As I walked into the rainbow-flagged edifice for our meeting, I had a boatload of fear. It's not that I was afraid of gay people, per se—I just didn't know very many. The Network's lobby was strewn with magazines and brochures about coming out, gay sex, HIV, and local events catering to the LGBT community.
I squeezed into an extra chair shoehorned into the miniscule office and began to chat with Dave about their programs and volunteer positions. He mentioned the organization's HIV prevention efforts aimed at the demographics most at risk for the virus: gay men and intravenous drug users. He explained the work of the needle exchange and the "outreach" programs in gay bars throughout our city. He explained the philosophy of meeting people where they are and moving them one baby step at a time toward health and, in that process, informing them about HIV and how to prevent its spread. Genuinely wanting to learn about this agency and their work (my notebook and clipboard in hand matched my earnest expression), I vigorously nodded to suggest this was all familiar information.