Celebrating the Safe Syringe Access Act
American chemist and transformative president of Harvard University James Bryant Conant once observed, “Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.”
This concept is one that propels the Levi Strauss Foundation (LSF) as it seeks to make a positive difference and drive pioneering change by funding programs that push the frontiers of possibility around the world.
Oftentimes that means taking a stand on issues that others may be fearful or hesitant to address in order to support high-risk and marginalized communities.
LSF’s ongoing support of the Syringe Access Fund is a perfect example. In 2004, LSF co-founded the fund to support syringe exchange and public policy activities. The fund aims to reduce the risk of HIV infection, Hepatitis C and other blood-borne pathogens among injection drug users and their sexual partners by making sterile syringes more accessible.
A decade later, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the Safe Syringe Access Act into law. By expanding access to and decriminalizing possession of sterile syringes, this law represents a significant victory for HIV and hepatitis prevention. It was sustained investment by the Syringe Access Fund, supported by grassroots advocacy, which made the success possible — we’re proud to have played a role.
“I recall the early days of our consideration and support for syringe access,” said former LS&Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Haas. “It was a highly controversial proposition, but we were convinced that it was both the right thing to do and a key to arresting the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially within high risk and marginalized populations. It therefore is gratifying to see that our advocacy, support, courage and persistence have paid off with the signing of this bill.”
There remains much work to be done to extend the benefits of this positive development, but for now, we pause and celebrate progress.