Firmly standing by the belief that all human beings bear the right to health, EPM emerges as a riposte to the current public health crisis in our island, and mostly amongst those living in rural municipalities, areas bound to oblivion. Based on the harm reduction model, a non-judgmental approach to human behavior, our mission is to reduce the health-wise harm associated with active drug injection in rural PR.
El Punto en la Montaña (EPM) began operations on December 1st 2007, World AIDS Day. Three NYC-based harm reduction advocates (Edwin Santiago, Yesenia Aponte-Meléndez, and Camila Gelpí-Acosta) co-founded EPM. With a budget of $17,500 and 2 part-time staff (Irmarilis González Torres, MA, now Board Member and Nilda Luz Rivera, now Project Coordinator), we took it upon ourselves to bring syringe exchange to the Central Eastern Region of our island-nation: Puerto Rico. We started with Cayey, municipality with one of the highest rates of self-reported drug use in the island, and continued with Cidra, then Comerío, Aguas Buenas and Caguas. In the past 5 years, our budget has grown but not enough to meet the actual need injection drug users have in these hard to reach areas. EPM remains the only syringe exchange program (SEP) serving these otherwise service-forsaken areas and the need to improve what we offer and to expand to other service-void municipalities is always pressing.
What is a syringe exchange program?
Syringe exchange programs (SEP) are entailed in a project of distributing new/sterile needles to injection drug users (IDU) while removing and safely disposing of used and potentially disease-infected ones from our communities. SEPs produce substantial health benefits by reducing the spread of HIV and decreasing rates of infection of other blood-borne pathogens. There is conclusive scientific evidence that syringe exchange programs are an effective public health intervention that reduces transmission of HIV. For instance, after 10 years of syringe exchange implementation in New York City, new HIV infections among IDU sharply declined by over 50%. A syringe that can prevent an HIV infection costs approximately 13 cents in Puerto Rico, while publically-funded HIV medical treatment costs over the lifetime of a person approximately half a million dollars. Thus, not only is SEP effective in public health terms, it is also tremendously cost effective for society.
Gladys I. Nieves Vázquez
Eric A. Maldonado Rodríguez
Luz N. Rodriguez
Frank Aquino Ruiz
Wanda Trinidad Martínez
Marge Álvarez, Ed.D.
Web admin & data quality
Board of Directors
Yesenia Aponte Meléndez, M.A.
Dolores Miranda Gierbolini, Ph.D.
Camila Gelpi Acosta
Rosaura Lopez Fontanez, MSW/LCSW
Cert. Professional Coach. 45 years of Clinical Social Worker. Work Experience: 21 years. Executive Director Puerto Rico Concra (HIV/Prevention Clinic). Practice Clinical Social Work: New York City, Philadelphia, Puerto Rico in the areas of Drug Addiction, HIV, Youth, and Education. Educational Experience: Post Graduate Certificate: The John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA (Johnson & Johnson/ UCLA Health Care Executive Program) Year 2002 (Grant From HRSA). Temple University, School of Social Administration (1980). First Puerto Rican Female in the Social Administration Pilot Program (University Grant). Adelphia University (BSW)/Deans List. New School for Social Research (New York City/Psychology).
Funders & Contributors
For the first 6 years, formerly CitiWide Harm Reduction (now BoomHealth) was EPM’s fiscal sponsor. We will always be grateful for their solidarity. Throughout the years, EPM has been supported in numerous ways by the following institutions and organizations. Thanks to all of you for your support!
Corporación Salud Asegurada por Nuestra Organización Solidaria - SANOS
Drug Policy Alliance
Foundation for Puerto Rico
Harm Reduction Coalition
MAC AIDS Fund
National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable
Open Society Foundations
PROYECTO AMOR QUE SANA
Puerto Rico CoNCRA
Syringe Access Fund
UNID@OS DANDOLE CARA AL SIDA (UDCAS PR)
Vida. Acción. Salud (VAS), University of Nebraska