THAT Place Back Out

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

Warmer weather brings a resurgence in dangerous behaviors and that's why it brings THAT Place back out on the streets.
"My name is Johnny, I'm with the Total Health Awareness Team and we basically come out into the community and talk to people about H.I.V. risk reduction, other sexually transmitted diseases," Johnny Pagan, THAT Place Outreach Coordinator tells a family at Rockford's Blackhawk Housing Complex.
THAT Place officially linked with the Rockford Housing Authority this year. They now go into different housing projects every day offering free condoms and clean needles to keep drug users from sharing contaminated ones.
"It keeps the risk down on a lot of diseases and stuff," says one Blackhawk resident.
But critics say the program facilitates drug use and casual sex.
"They got their P's confused, it's about prevention, not promotion. People are gonna have sex, they're gonna get high regardless. Until they're ready to get some help, cause we refer people to treatment centers, Rosecrantz, detox and so on, until they're ready to get some help you know what be safe," says Pagan.
After the outreach coordinator goes door to door identifying at-risk people, he can bring them right over to the mobile THAT Place ambulance, where they can get their H.I.V. test and result right on site.
Free twenty minute test results are another new tool in THAT Place's risk-fighting program. The director says they've also been able to increase counseling since moving into their new location in January. And that's helping them wean addicts off their habits.
"They're really eager to access recovery through the exchange, which is, i'll always and forever be proud of that because it flies in the phase of are we enabling drug use," says Executive Director JBryan Latham.
Over the last five years there has been a 29 percent decrease in injection drug-related H.I.V.-transmissions. But sexual transmission has gone up 14 percent and there have already been 20 positive test results in Winnebgago County this year.
After a long battle with Rockford's zoning board of appeals, THAT Place headquarters are now settled at 203 7th St. They offer counseling at that site and needle exchange all over town.


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