He legally traded his dirty needles for a free batch of new syringes, a simple swap experts say reduces the spread of AIDS, hepatitis C and other diseases.
The Clean Works program at 54 S. Division Ave. in Grand Rapids has been in business just over 10 years, armed with evidence it is paying off.
“It works. It works on many levels,” said Tami VandenBerg, chairwoman of the Grand Rapids Red Project, the nonprofit organization that oversees the program. It is marking its 10th anniversary with a 6:30 p.m. reception Saturday at the Pyramid Scheme in downtown Grand Rapids.
When Grand Rapids Mayor John Logie proposed a needle exchange in 1997, about 25 percent of those living with AIDS or the HIV virus in Kent County contracted it from injection drug use.
That figure has plummeted to about 5 percent, a reduction VandenBerg attributes primarily to needle exchanges. Part of the drop may be due to the death of some those injection users counted in the 1997 numbers.