Author Archives: Suzy Subways

Prison Health News: Summer 2011 Issue Out Now!

We finally finished the Summer issue of Prison Health News — with vital information that is right on time for people in prisons and jails around the country.

You can download it as a pdf for reading by clicking here, or the printable version by clicking here. See the end of this post for helpful printing instructions.

This issue’s got

  • Beat Stress with Dahn Yoga Meditation by Teresa Sullivan
  • Fasting for Human Rights in the Secure Housing Units of California by Suzy Subways
  • How HIV Meds Work, Part II: An Update on HIV Drug Classes by Hannah Zellman
  • The Society for Employment and Equal Rights by George N. Murray
  • Free Your Mind by Angelo Johnson

plus, addresses in different regions of the U.S. to write for Advocacy and Support Resources and Informational Resources!

Prison Health News is a print newsletter read by 2,500+ people who are locked up in prisons and jails across the United States. It is produced by a Philadelphia-based collective of writers and editors, most of whom have been in prison and are living with HIV, and includes the work of imprisoned artists and writers. Our readers are living inside a system that denies them prevention tools and treatment information about HIV, hepatitis, and other health issues. They are dealing with medical neglect, daily humiliations driven by intense stigma, and the destruction of their communities by mass imprisonment.

Prison Health News is a project of Reaching Out: A Support Group with Action and the Institute for Community Justice, which are based at the HIV/AIDS services organization Philadelphia FIGHT. Volunteers at the AIDS Library (also at FIGHT) answer the many letters to us from people in prisons and jails asking for resources and health information. Continue reading

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The Politics of Impatience: An open letter from anarchists to the anarchist movement

The Politics of Impatience:

An open letter from anarchists to the anarchist movement

Dear friends,

As anarchists from a variety of different projects and political perspectives, mostly in the U.S., we are inspired by the courage of students fighting for access to public universities in New York, California, and everywhere. At a time when politicians take money out of schools and build prisons to fill with young people of color and poor people – while giving away trillions to the banks, health insurance companies, and war profiteers – any movement that takes back space and resources for public use wins our hearts. Many of us are not students, but we will continue to demonstrate our solidarity in whatever ways we can when students are beaten and arrested, and colleges themselves start to look like jails because administrations are afraid of the power of student organizing.

We are shocked that on March 4th at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY), some anarchists harmfully disrupted a protest against tuition hikes, budget cuts, and childcare cuts. Some of the facts of what happened are in dispute. Some are not, including the following: A faculty member and longtime media activist was injured in the head, sectarian graffiti was spray-painted, and a parent from Defend Hunter Childcare was targeted with a sexist epithet that was heard by some as a rape threat. Some of the individuals involved have apologized for their actions. But we still need to ask why this happened, how anarchists could be responsible for these things. And how to make sure it never happens again.

At the root of the incident was an impatience by some anarchists with a rally and walkout that they decided should have been an occupation. This letter will talk about the politics of impatience and offer some ideas for action.

A movement that stands for childcare, healthcare, and education for everyone means more to most people than slogans shouted by those who are “pushed by the violence of our desires” to act as individuals. A statement with that phrase as its title, written by some folks involved in the altercation at Hunter, claims, “We do not need the ‘consent of the people.’” But militant direct action needs to take place within the context of a movement, not outside of it. To single-handedly declare that a protest is not radical enough without participating in the democratic processes of the movement is vanguardist. It’s ironic–and tragic–when it comes from anarchists. When we want to occupy, let’s reach out to those who might want to occupy too, so there’s a chance they might occupy with us.

Peace to the villages, war to the palaces

We are deeply frustrated with the lack of militant resistance across the U.S. while the powers that be are murdering millions of people with impunity, transferring our wealth to the richest, and destroying the planet. In many areas, the only options being offered are lobbying, actions pre-determined by media-savvy advocacy nonprofit staff, and grassroots campaigns that only demand what they believe to be immediately “winnable” from local, state, or federal governments.

We’ve all felt the transformation and possibility that resonates in the air at more spontaneous mass protests where, however briefly, the streets or the schools are truly ours. If that moment of freedom can also feed the bellies and minds of people’s children, people will do it again, and more will be inspired to try it on their own terms.

Learning our movements’ histories can give us a few ideas. CUNY, for example, has a tremendous militant history of student occupations, Continue reading

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Filed under Alternatives to 501c3, economic justice, New York City, revolutionary strategies, Uncategorized, youth

Solidarity Project 6 – Sex Workers Organizing

The Solidarity Project, published online by the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) from November 2006 to November 2008, is available in pdf format on CHAMP’s website. Download Issue 6 – Sex Workers Organizing – here.

En Español: Septiembre de 2007 • Número 6 • Los Trabajadores Sexuales se Organizan haga clic aquí para Número 6

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

In This Issue:

Liberated Style
Sex workers in Washington, DC, and Brazil develop creative strategies to fight stigma, violence, police repression, and HIV
By Darby Hickey……………………p.03

Kumjing’s Activist Passport:
Migrant sex workers in Thailand become HIV prevention leaders, despite U.S. groups’ attempts to “rescue” them
By Suzy Subways, with additional reporting by Darby Hickey……….p.06

Durbar Is Life, As Life Is Durbar
Policy Document on Positive Sex Workers………………………………..p.09

What you can do……………………p.10


Top Ten Positive Changes for Agency Staff
Young Women’s Empowerment Project…………………………………p.15

Special thanks to Joanna Berton Martinez for her comments on a draft of this issue.

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Workers in the sex industry fight discrimination, violence, and HIV

by Suzy Subways, Editor, Solidarity Project

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

Many different types of jobs and trade can be defined as sex work. And many people around the world may call themselves sex workers, including people who work as escorts, prostitutes, erotic massage workers, exotic dancers, or hustlers; do phone sex, lingerie modeling, adult internet sites, or adult films; live with the support of a sugar-daddy or sugar-mama; or have sex for housing, food, clothing, drugs, or other things they need. In this issue of the Solidarity Project, we discuss ways that sex workers are building their power to protect themselves from violence, arrest, stigma, and HIV.

“Sex workers organizing as HIV prevention workers, especially in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canada, South Africa, and some Asian countries have, with funding for HIV prevention programs, fostered a thriving sex workers’ rights movement,” says Priscilla Alexander, longtime activist and researcher on sex work and HIV. “The best HIV prevention is designed by vulnerable communities themselves, so it’s essential that sex workers have a say. But the gag rule has damaged global organizing.” The gag rule is a policy requiring all organizations outside the United States to denounce prostitution in order to receive global HIV prevention money (see sidebar next page).

In this issue of the Solidarity Project, we spotlight activist groups, such as Davida in Brazil and EMPOWER in Thailand, that work creatively without U.S. funding. We also explore how arrest, deportation and police abuse, as well as the stigma and violence sex workers often experience from clients, in their workplace and in society, put them at risk for HIV – and how
organized resistance to these threats is an essential element of HIV prevention.

“The first reason for not using condoms is the fear of violence,” says Yaya Liem of Project SAFE, a street outreach program for sex workers run by volunteers in Philadelphia. “The rate and visibility of violence is sky-high.” Continue reading

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Solidarity Project 5 – “Nothing About Us Without Us”: Drug Users Organizing

The Solidarity Project, published online by the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) from November 2006 to November 2008, is available in pdf format on CHAMP’s website. Download Issue 5 – “Nothing About Us Without Us” – here.

En Español: Junio de 2007 • Número 5 • “Nada Sobre Nosotros Sin Nosotros” haga clic aquí para Número 5

JUNE 2007 • Issue 5

In This Issue:

“Nothing About Us Without Us”

Drug users around the world organize for HIV and viral hepatitis prevention, healthcare, and human rights……p.01

Harm Reduction Activism in Russia
By Masha Ovchinnikova…………..p.06

Recovering Nepal: A National Drug Users’ Network
By Anan Pun…………………………..p.08

What is a User Group?
By Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt…..p.09

Harm Reduction and Crystal Meth……………………………………………..p.09

TAKE ACTION………………………..P.10

Drug User Activist Sites, Videos, Writings and Artwork. Also, Reports, Papers and Scientific Research…………………………….p.11

Harm Reduction Basics for AIDS Service Organizations and Activists
Workshops from the Harm Reduction Coalition…………p.13

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“Nothing About Us Without Us”: Drug users around the world organize for HIV and viral hepatitis prevention, healthcare, and human rights

by Suzy Subways, Editor, Solidarity Project

JUNE 2007 • Issue 5

We know that drug use—both legal and illegal—can increase a person’s HIV risk. We also know that just quitting drug use is not a realistic option for everyone. Harm reduction strategies accept that drug use is part of our world and provide effective tools to reduce the harmful effects that drug use can have, such as viral hepatitis, HIV and overdose. HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B can be transmitted when people share injecting equipment, so syringe exchanges give people clean, unused works and dispose of people’s used ones. Methadone is a drug that can be prescribed and taken orally so that injection is avoided completely, and many people find they can keep their lives more manageable and healthy with methadone or another type of opiate maintenance therapy. In this issue of Solidarity Project, we explore ways that drug users around the world are organizing to protect themselves and their communities when society won’t.

Spectacular demonstrations took place on World AIDS Day 2006 in Teheran, Iran. More than 800 people visited Persepolis’ programme for reducing HIV among drug injectors.

At the 18th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in Warsaw, Poland in May, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced that about a third of people who contract HIV worldwide outside of Africa are exposed through shared syringes during injection drug use or indirectly as sexual partners of people infected through shared syringes. The trend is similar in the United States, where these risk factors account for almost two-thirds of cumulative AIDS cases among women.

Between 50-90%, of active and former injection drug users in the U.S. have hepatitis C (HCV), with most users becoming infected within the first years of beginning to inject. In Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, injection drug use is a primary mode of transmission for both HIV and HCV. Yet only 8% of injection drug users worldwide have access to prevention services like opiate maintenance treatment and sterile syringes, according to UNAIDS.

The U.S.-led global “War on Drugs”—which puts drug users in the hands of police and prisons instead of serving users’ physical and mental health, housing, and recovery needs—increases the risk of contracting HIV and viral hepatitis, as well as the risk of overdose. Stijn Goossens, Director of Activism for the newly formed International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) cites an example from his home, Antwerp, Belgium, to demonstrate the absurdity of making particular drugs illegal: “Antwerp jails are full of Moroccans in for the hash trade. How come they’re not full of Scottish people in for the whiskey trade?” Of course, Goossens and INPUD would oppose the incarceration of alcohol vendors from any country, but his point is clear.

Even before the emergence of HIV, drug users organized to provide services for their communities and to defend their human rights. Those who are directly affected by an issue must lead every struggle for justice—and this struggle is no different. As with any movement, drug user organizing faces considerable challenges, but they can be overcome, especially with the logistical support of former and non-users.

A Movement Grows

Drug user organizing started in the Netherlands in the early 1970s to reduce the transmission of hepatitis B, and in 1984, a users’ group in Amsterdam began the first distribution of syringes to prevent HIV. The Drug User Organizing Manual, created by Jennifer Flynn for the Open Society Institute’s International Harm Reduction Development Program (IHRD), observes: “Heavily influenced by the AIDS movement, drug user organizing carries forward The Denver Principles, which rejects victimization and creates a new identity that individuals can call themselves, rather than being given a label by the outside world.” Continue reading

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Filed under Alternatives to 501c3, arts and culture, Canada, China, displacement and gentrification, Drug users' rights, economic justice, Europe, harm reduction, hepatitis, Native Americans/Indigenous peoples, New York City, people with AIDS in leadership, police repression, prison, Solidarity Project, stigma, treatment access, Uncategorized

Harm Reduction Activism in Russia

By Masha Ovchinnikova

JUNE 2007 • Issue 5

Masha Ovchinnikova is an activist and project coordinator at FrontAIDS, a Russian AIDS activist group. She is a former drug user living in Moscow and has been doing harm reduction work for about three years. She can be reached at Riotmasha (at)

In November 2004, shortly after activists started FrontAIDS, the group protested outside the government administration building in St. Petersburg to demand HIV treatment for drug users.

There are more than one million people living with HIV in the Russian Federation, and about 80 percent have an experience of injecting drug use. About 60 percent of people using injection drugs have hepatitis C (HCV), and about five million people in Russia are officially registered as living with HCV.

Harm reduction or forced detox?

The Russian government is more attracted to taking repressive action against drug use than encouraging harm reduction measures. Now government officials are discussing forced treatment for drug users. Methadone is a medication from the “first list” (the list of most dangerous) drugs, which means it is banned. We tried to raise this question in a meeting with the director of the Russian narcological system, N. N. Ivanez, and he said that it’s absolutely unrealistic to create a methadone therapy system in Russia now.

Drop-in centers and needle exchange programs are dependent on the local government’s opinion. In some cities, like Kaliningrad, needle exchange programs are absolutely prohibited. They are interpreted as a form of propaganda for drug use, so people who provide it are subject to arrest. In some places, syringe exchange is legal but, still, it is not well funded. Usually there are just two or three exchanges in each city, and drug users are often afraid of going to such places because they could be arrested near them.

Drug users and human rights

Many financial, bureaucratic and moral barriers keep drug users from being able to take care of their health, or sometimes their lives. People can’t receive any medical help at the usual clinics if they are “kicking.” If you want to go into a detox program, you have to wait a few weeks, sometimes more. You have to prepare a lot of documents and take some tests (including HIV testing). Then, there is no guarantee you’ll get good medicine — but what’s for sure is that you’ll be blamed and humiliated by the clinic staff. Continue reading


Filed under disaster capitalism, Drug users' rights, economic justice, harm reduction, hepatitis, police repression, Russia, Solidarity Project, stigma, treatment access, Uncategorized

Recovering Nepal: A National Drug Users’ Network

By Anan Pun

JUNE 2007 • Issue 5

Anan Pun is the Chairperson of Recovering Nepal, a network of local drug user activist organizations throughout the Asian country of Nepal. He can be reached at ananpun (at)

I am an activist from Nepal, one of the poorest developing countries in the world, where HIV is growing explosively among injection drug users, sex workers, migrants and transgender people, and also in the general population. In a country of 2.3 million people, there are an estimated 200,000 drug users.

In Nepal, syringe exchange and maintenance therapy (with buprenorphine) are legal, and harm reduction has remained the mainstay of the Ministry of Health’s national program for injection drug users. However, the program only reaches 8.6% of drug users, according to a composite program reach index. HIV prevalence among injection drug users has gone up to 68 percent, from less than one percent in 1995. For harm reduction to be effective, people who need syringe exchange and other services must have access to them, and the government needs to fully support the program. There has been much conflict between the Ministry of Health and the Home Ministry, which is responsible for security and the war on drugs.

Recovering Nepal led a silent protest at the Ministry of Health in Kathmandu on May 11, 2007 to demand that Nepal's Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) involve drug users, men who have sex with men, sex workers and HIV positive people in its Global AIDS Fund (GFATM) application and planning process.

Recovering Nepal was founded in 2001 by an energetic group of active drug users and ex-users, including women and people living with HIV and hepatitis C. Our goal was to combat blood-borne diseases and drug-related harm. It began with a series of workshops, during which drug users had an opportunity to share their experiences, reflect on their feelings, observations and insights, and learn from each other. Now, we have 17 employees, 3,000 individual members, and more than 50 member organizations in different regions of the country. I have been working with Recovering Nepal since the beginning.

Most members of the executive board are ex-users or active users. Since May 2003, Recovering Nepal has served as a strong network of committed people who are helping to address stigma and discrimination, raising our voices to promote basic rights, lobbying and advocating for policy change, and increasing quality access to affordable, comprehensive treatment and care for drug users who are living with HIV and hepatitis C. Currently, Recovering Nepal is focused on training new grassroots leaders in the local drug users’ groups.

Since we held a protest at its headquarters on May 11, the Ministry of Health has said it is ready to involve organizations of drug users, men who have sex with men, sex workers, and HIV positive people in its Global AIDS Fund application and planning process. The Global Fund has denied grants to Nepal because these democratic reforms are needed. But we can see now that our protest has had an impact, and the situation will get better.

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What is a User Group?

By Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt

JUNE 2007 • Issue 5

An excerpt from “Junkies in the House of the Lord,” a dissertation about drug user organizing written in 2004 for the master’s program in Social Policy and Planning at the London School of Economics.

Drugs users, illegal or prescribed, have developed many models of self-organisation, but their great diversity in size and function can make definition difficult. A group could consist of as few as three people focusing on local improvement of their drug treatment services (REFORM in London) to larger Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), with sufficient funding to pay employees, e.g., the Drug Users Advocacy Group in Amsterdam (MDHG), who also lobby on a national level. Albeit that some User activists are salaried, it should be clear that the majority in this research, and in general, are volunteers. The reasons for this range from a lack of skills, confidence or consistent good health to the State undervaluing their inputs as politically unacceptable or lacking in therapeutic substance. Drug users are often led to believe that they ‘owe’ something to society, thus establishing the notion that they
do not deserve salaries, not to mention the fact that known drug users experience overt and covert employment discrimination, (less likely to be an issue in the drugs field.)

In their article “Defining the Drug User” (1998), Balian and White differentiate between “recreational users” and users who appear to have lost the choice to recreationally use. They challenge ex-users who desire union membership to consider whether they are “strong” enough to be around active drug users without lapsing, and to take responsibility for the lapse should it happen. M. Southwell, founder of the National Drug Users Development Agency (U.K./NDUDA) also offers a definition: “Drug users, who may/may not have used treatment services, but have worked within the established user groups, and related activism.”

I will define User Groups as, “A group of ex/current criminalised drug users who try to improve the quality of their lives and of their wider communities by campaigning for local and/or national drug policies, which typically work towards reducing the death, disease and (where possible) crime, related to illicit drug use.”

Download the complete dissertation at the Canadian Harm Reduction Network.

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Harm Reduction and Crystal Meth

by Suzy Subways

JUNE 2007 • Issue 5

Many of us recall moments of drunken sexual risk-taking—whether disastrous or delicious—and can attest to the fact that crystal meth (methamphetamine) isn’t the only drug that can lead us to make decisions that put us at risk for HIV. The link between crystal meth use and risky sexual behaviors certainly isn’t limited to men who have sex with men. It’s a complicated link that isn’t well understood, varying from person to person and situation to situation. The community websites described below were created and maintained with the participation of current and former crystal users. Both sites are geared toward gay and bisexual men, but the content is relevant for anyone using or interested in understanding crystal meth. They offer a harm reduction approach, providing individuals with various tools to help them make informed personal decisions. is an innovative San Francisco-based website with an array of resources for men who use crystal meth. Committed to harm reduction, the site provides background information about crystal meth and how it affects your physical, mental and sexual health. includes a public forum in which men share their experiences and ideas about crystal meth. Men may submit their “True Stories” for publication and read the refreshingly honest writings of others, including some searingly funny anecdotes. Click on “Campaigns” to see current and past social marketing campaigns that has kicked off. The site also includes a helpful list of harm reduction resources. This summer, sections of the site will be launched in Spanish, allowing it to serve even more men.

CRYSTAL NEON, based in Seattle, provides accurate, honest information about how crystal affects the body and mind, options for reducing sexual and drug-using risks associated with crystal, and suggestions for managing or stopping crystal use. NEON’s philosophies are rooted in the concept of harm reduction and the belief that all individuals are capable of making life-enhancing decisions, regardless of their drug use. The website has useful materials, like a downloadable budget worksheet (click on “Managing” and then “Paying Your Dealer… and Your Rent!”) It’s also clever and lots of fun!

For information about the possible effects of crystal meth use on HIV disease progression and interactions between meth and anti-HIV drugs, read Much Ado About Meth by Tim Horn, published in the Spring 2005 issue of ACRIA Update.

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Filed under arts and culture, California, Drug users' rights, gay and bisexual men, harm reduction, sex education, Solidarity Project, Uncategorized