HIV prevention groups in San Francisco are weighing a move that they think might cut down on infections in the area: Handing out free crack pipes to high-risk users.
These organizations consider their crack pipe-distributing efforts to be outreach, which will allow them to reach at-risk users. Laura Thomas, HIV Prevention Planning Council member and Deputy State Director of the Drug Police Alliance, spoke to the benefits of a similar program that exists in Toronto:
It may seem counter intuitive, but it’s a great program. Once you can bring people into your program, make them feel respected, taken care of, then they’re more likely to come back and get on HIV meds and want to be engaged and taking care of their health.
SFist notes that there are needle exchange programs for heroin users, and Glide Health Services syringe access coordinator Alli Kraus asserted that crack use often leads to HIV infections, and that people who smoke crack are twice as likely to contract HIV than those who do not. SFist is quick to point out that this has more to do with the crack-smoker's lifestyle than the fact that they simply smoke crack.
Still, San Francisco's Department of Public Health director Barbabra Garcia remains staunchly opposed to the idea: "We have a lot of things to consider for those who are using crack for improving their health. And the distribution of crack pipes is not something I’m going to consider."
There you have it.