Supervised injection facilities are controversial government-provided spaces where addicts can use safely.
In 60 cities across eight countries worldwide, injection drug users can safely get their fix under medical supervision. The United States is not one of those countries.
These spaces are called supervised injection facilities (SIFs) and there are over 100 of them in operation worldwide. Research demonstrates that SIFs save lives. A 2011 paper published in The Lancet found fatal overdoses within 500 meters of Insite, a SIF located in Vancouver, decreased by 35 percent after the facility opened. The city of Vancouver as a whole saw a nine percent reduction in fatal overdoses during the same time period.
Despite evidence that SIFs reduce HIV infections and overdose deaths, America shutters at the notion of government taking a back seat to people doing drugs. Meanwhile, heroin-related fatalities in America continue to skyrocket, quadrupling between 2000 and 2013.
Which is why sociologist Greg Scott partnered up with architect-designer Andrew Santa Lucia, to build a pop-up SIF exhibit for the 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, which recently took place in Washington D.C.
The exhibit is an artistic expression of resistance to the implicit moral assumptions on which American medicine and psychiatry operate. Where some see disease in need of intervention, the SAFE SHAPE team sees humanity and beauty. Hence, the core message of the exhibit reads:
This is a place you can trust and a place where you are trusted
This is a place where you can feel safe and be safe and not be stigmatized for using drug
Nothing about this place (or about you) is pathological or abnormal
This is a legitimate, socially acceptable space in which to receive assistance in promoting your own well-being
This is a place that cares deeply about you
This is a place where the provision of assistance to you derives from rigorous scientific research
This is a place where the complex beauty of all human life is allowed to flourish
Lets take a virtual walk through of the exhibit, thats meant to expose people to the benefits of SIFs, and the humanness of its clientele.
The image above is the front entrance of the exhibit, where the client will pick up the necessary tools (needle, cotton, cooker, water, alcohol swab, and tourniquet) to fix a safe injection. Below is a video of the process, which will be playing on a tablet for exhibit attendees as they do walkthroughs. The walls of the truncated pyramid are made of white fabric, which projects video of injections taking place in the usual unsanitary conditions that drug users are forced to endure, exposing them to potentially dangerous infections.