Austin Harm Reduction Coalition (AHRC) is a non-profit volunteer based organization that works to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C for people who inject drugs (PWID) in Austin, Texas. We provide HIV & HCV testing, drug treatment referrals, medical care, overdose prevention and resources to prevent disease transmissions such as condoms, alcohol pads, and supplies for safe injection. We also provide linkage to care for active drug users who have HIV or Hepatitis C. We provide a mobile outreach service, reaching directly into the communities most affected by injection drug use, overdose, HIV and Hepatitis C.
We have been providing safe injection education and HIV prevention through harm reduction services for more than 20 years. We expanded in 2015 to add HIV and HCV testing services, wound care services, and linkage to care for those who test positive for either HIV or HCV. Generally, when an active drug user tests positive for Hepatitis C, they are unable to receive treatment and are not always even referred to care. Our focus on this person sets us apart from other linkage services. We will fight to have the active drug user treated for HCV. When it is not possible, we ensure they are linked to primary and liver care.
The overdose epidemic has ravaged the country and is now the leading cause of accidental death in the US. We began an Overdose Prevention Program in 2014, distributing overdose education and training. We have been providing Naloxone, an opiate antagonist that reverses an opiate overdose, since March 2014. Since then, we have distributed thousands of doses of this medication, and more than 200 reversals have been reported to us. Reporting overdose also has an additional benefit because they are often reported in clusters, so we are able to warn our participants to be very careful with the heroin on the streets at the time. We always say, “You can always do more, but once you have done a large amount, you cannot take it away.” By never using alone and always carrying Naloxone, people who inject opiates are much less likely to suffer negative consequences from an overdose.