About PreventionWorks!


The mission of PreventionWorks! is to curb the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases among injecting and other drug users, their sexual partners, and their children.


PreventionWorks! is a nonprofit organization with a harm reduction philosophy. We are the oldest and largest syringe exchange program in Washington, DC. Our services are delivered by our mobile outreach unit at 11 different locations, 5 days per week and by appointment through arranged delivery on Fridays. We also provide services five days per week at our Neighborhood Harm Reduction Center. We provide sterile injection equipment, harm reduction supplies, safe disposal of used supplies, HIV testing (with results in 20 minutes), drug treatment referrals, wound care and safer sex kits, food, education, trainings, support groups and HIV case management/treatment adherence.


PreventionWorks! began in 1996 as a project of the Whitman-Walker Clinic. In 1998, PreventionWorks! incorporated as its own organization after the U.S. Congress passed legislation forbidding the District of Columbia from using its local government funds to support harm reduction services and prohibiting organizations that receive federal funding from operating a syringe exchange program, even if funded with private donations. In 2007, the law was changed to allow publicly funded organizations to use private funds, as well as local DC government funds, to provide syringe exchange. PreventionWorks! today offers services, the tools and information for leading healthier lives and provides access and referrals to drug treatment, medical, and social services. With the opening of a Neighborhood Harm Reduction Center in January 2009, PreventionWorks! is transitioning into a full-service HIV prevention and health advocacy group.

What is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies that reduce negative consequences of drug use and other activities, incorporating a spectrum of strategies. There is no universal definition or formula for implementing harm reduction. However, some central principles to harm reduction practice include:

  1. Pragmatism: harm reduction accepts that some people engage in behaviors that may put themselves at risk. It does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with behaviors or situations.
  2. Humanistic Values: recognizes the humanity in everyone - everyone has a right to be treated with respect and dignity.
  3. Acceptance: the person's decisions are accepted without moralistic judgment. This calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive, non-punitive provision of services and resources to people.
  4. Focus on Harms: the extent of a person's drug use is of secondary importance to the harms resulting from them.
  5. Context: recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people's vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
  6. Client-Centered: meets people where they're at - geographically and psychologically. It acknowledges that any change, no matter how small, is a positive step and an examples of success.
  7. Self-Determination: helps people to make improvements in areas that they themselves identify. Affirms that drug users themselves are the primary agents of reducing the harms of their behavior.
  8. Representation: ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.