Public citizens, marginalized communities: The struggle for syringe exchange in Springfield, Massachusetts

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13 Scopus citations


Syringe exchange programs, which, in order to prevent HIV infections, provide injection drug users with sterile syringes in exchange for used ones, operate at the intersection of conflicting social and political beliefs about disease, drugs, the common good, and the law. This paper describes community opposition that emerged from diverse quarters in response to a proposed syringe exchange program (SEP) in Springfield, Massachusetts. White suburban residents and inner-city African-Americans both drew on concepts of personal responsibility and self-sufficiency as they described their opposition to SEP. Through archival research and in-depth interviews with key community figures, I show how their similar political positions resulted from highly divergent views on the role of government in caring for citizens and communities. These arguments about addiction, HIV, and community both index and turn on the unique relationships with government experienced by a range of social actors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-63
Number of pages33
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006



  • Neoliberalism
  • Syringe exchange
  • Urban health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology

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