Harm reduction

What we’re sharing & learning at upcoming HIV & harm reduction conferences

Attending USCHA or the National Harm Reduction Conference? Find out what’s being shared, and what staff members are looking forward to.

Mid-October, San Francisco AIDS Foundation leaders will bring expertise in harm reduction, substance use, and HIV to the annual National Harm Reduction Conference and the U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS. Staff members from across the organization are scheduled to present their work at SFAF, moderate panel discussions, share research findings, and learn from other practitioners in harm reduction and HIV. 

At the National Harm Reduction Conference, Seth Katz, coordinator of community programs with Syringe Access Services, will share information about a secondary syringe exchange group for trans people he facilitates and leads at SFAF, with the goal of promoting harm reduction and community programs by and for trans communities. 

“Transphobia is a determinant of health, which is why it’s important for community programs like secondary syringe exchanges to emphasize, center, and include transgender and gender non-conforming folks,” said Katz. “Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for trans people to be excluded from harm reduction or HIV services. Trans men are told that they’re not men who have sex with men, and aren’t eligible for services. Or trans women will go into a women’s shelter, because that’s where they feel safe, and will get kicked out if the staff find out they’re transgender. There is a need for more people to be creating intentional spaces and programs for trans folks.” 

Also at the Harm Reduction Conference, Jorge Zepeda, director of Latinx Health Services, will present the results of a first-of-its kind needs assessment conducted with Spanish- and Mayan-speaking Latinx community members who use drugs in the Bay Area. In collaboration with Carlos Martinez, Brenda Cantero, and Laura Guzman, the team will share what they learned about the overdose prevention and harm reduction needs of Latinx people who use drugs, a population heavily impacted by overdose in recent years. 

“I am glad to be able to bring what we learned from this needs assessment to the conference,” said Zepeda. “I hope that this information can inform interventions or programs that go on to address the needs in our communities, in order to help prevent fatal overdose and other drug-related harms moving forward.” 

Our CEO, Tyler TerMeer, PhD, who will be present at both conferences, will participate in a panel discussion about a National AIDS Memorial film he is featured in titled, Surviving Voices: The Black Community and AIDS

Laura Thomas, Director of HIV and Harm Reduction, will bring discussion of safe consumption services to the conference, in a talk titled, “WTF is going on in San Francisco? An opinionated assessment of the campaign for supervised consumption services in San Francisco.” At the U.S. Conference on HIV and AIDS, Thomas will speak on a panel about federal harm reduction policy in the U.S. 

Other staff attending the conference shared what they’re looking forward to in terms of learning and hearing from other attendees. 

Claudia Figallo, Manager of Substance Health Equity, works to ensure we provide effective Spanish services for clients who seek support at Stonewall Project. “I’m looking forward to seeing how other organizations create linguistic and culturally appropriate materials in order to engage the diverse communities they work with. Also, how Puerto Rico and other Spanish speaking communities support people who use drugs.”

Ashley Z., manager of Syringe Access Services, said she’s looking forward to learning more about how harm reduction programs and overdose prevention programs operate outside the U.S. “There’s such a big range in what these programs can look like. In some places, a public health nurse is the one running a needle exchange. Or there may be only a few people on staff and the site runs entirely with support from volunteers. Since we’ll be in Puerto Rico, I’m especially interested in hearing more about how harm reduction programs operate there.”  

Katz said he’s looking forward to learning more about harm reduction in rural communities. “There are some places that are the only needle exchange in like a billion-mile radius. In San Francisco, we’re part of this neural network with many extensions into the community. If a doctor is not on site, I can literally walk you over to urgent care to get help.” 

Ashley and Katz said that connecting with colleagues who encounter similar challenges in their work is another goal of attending the conference. 

“There’s something really powerful about being in a conference-type of space with other people who have unconditional love for people who use drugs,” said Katz. “There’s this deep knowing, and you often have these deep conversations around vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. There’s often a deeper connection in that sense.” 

Attending the Harm Reduction Conference or the U.S. Conference on HIV and AIDS? 

Connect with San Francisco AIDS Foundation staff at the Harm Reduction Conference: 

  • Sunday, October 9, 8 am: Film – The Black Community & AIDS, followed by a panel discussion with Tyler TerMeer, PhD and other representatives from the Surviving Voices Video project   
  • Thursday, October 13, 6 pm: Presentation – Transgender Harm Reduction & Drug Use Services (THREADS), with Seth Katz 
  • Saturday, October 15, 12:45 pm: Presentation – Spanish and Mayan Speaking Latinx Overdose Prevention Needs Assessment: Addressing Racial & Language Justice in San Francisco Harm Reduction Efforts, with Jorge Zepeda 
  • WTF is going on in San Francisco? An opinionated assessment of the campaign for supervised consumption services in San Francisco,” with Laura Thomas 
  • “Punk Rock, Hip Hop, Drag Shows, Festivals, Fans, Artists, Bars, Clubs and Concerts. Harm Reduction in Music and Entertainment Spaces: Successes, Challenges, and Innovations,” with Laura Thomas 

Connect with San Francisco AIDS Foundation staff at the U.S. Conference on HIV and AIDS:

  • Monday, October 10, 9 am: Presentation – Where things stand: Federal harm reduction policy, with Laura Thomas