Needle Exchange Van Rolls Into Town
A lifesaving needle exchange program rolled into Far Rockaway Wednesday and began distributing important weapons in the fight against HIV/ AIDS and other deadly infectious diseases.
Representatives from the AIDS Center of Queens County began handing out clean syringes, needles and works, condoms, female condoms, dental dams and literature from the program’s “Q” van parked on Beach 21 Street near Cornaga Avenue.
Despite the stormy weather that made the first half of Wednesday a soggy mess, the program collected its first used syringe within two hours, according to ACQC’s Executive Director Philip Glotzer. The syringe was deposited into the van’s onboard sharps container for
Syringe Exchange Supervisor Sarah Lippek and Specialist Terrell Blair were casually dressed and friendly when The Wave observed them interacting with curious passersby this week. They told The Wave they quickly handed out most of their supply of glassine envelopes, which contain information on the program and free condoms.
A package collected by The Wave contained two “ultra lubricated” LifeStyles condoms.
“We try to get lots of fancy brands with flavored lube,” Lippek explained.
The program also includes peer educators or members of the community who hit the street to spread the word. Blair, who also supervises the peer educators, described them as ACQC’s “vanguards.”
Here’s what the peer educators will tell you: The program is not just for intravenous drug abusers, anyone who injects drugs for any reason (diabetes and steroids included) can participate; no appointment is needed; you don’t have to give your name; and you don’t have to agree to participate in any kind of treatment, but ACQC workers can point you in the right direction if you are interested in treatment.
Lippek urged those who use intravenous drugs or medications to visit the van and help protect themselves and their loved ones from HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. She said people who take advantage of the services are “taking one step towards health.”
City health statistics from 2001 suggest that there could be nearly 1,000 people infected with HIV/AIDS living in the Rockaways. Lippek said the program is the single most effective way to reduce the number of infections.
The Wave reported in January that Community Board 14 approved ACQC’s bid to bring a needle exchange van to Far Rockaway. Chairperson Delores Orr said that, after seeing another ACQC exchange in action, she was convinced it would be “very efficient and un-intrusive.”
CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said that if the community begins to notice any trouble associated with the program, the board would seek to relocate or discontinue the van service.
The ACQC van, which will soon display a large blue “Q” decal on the side, parks on Beach 21 Street near Cornaga Avenue every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The van’s staff can be reached by cell phone at (347) 723-7222.
ACQC’s Far Rockaway office is located at 1600 Central Avenue, Suite 301.