By Zack Rosen
HIPS, an internationally heralded non-profit organization, which provides services, education and advocacy to the local community of sex-workers and drug users, is turning 20 years old. The organization celebrates two decades of help and hope with a fundraising gala and a special appearance from “Orange is the New Black” transgender superstar Laverne Cox.
Tickets are still available for the HIPS 20th Anniversary Party this Thursday, October 3, at 6 p.m. in the Josephine Butler Parks Center. Over 150 supporters, employees, volunteers, and clients are turning out for the special, star-studded event.
“We hope to convey the work we’ve done in the last twenty years, to demonstrate the positive impact we have in this city because we love it so much,” says Director of Development Emily Hammell. “We want to show why people should either start supporting us or continue doing so. We play a valuable role in D.C. and won’t be able to continue doing that without the support of the community and city council members.”
HIPS was founded in 1993. A small band of dedicated volunteers — armed only with a mini-van, condoms and hot chocolate — showed that our community’s most marginalized are the most in need of support, and that with proper advocacy they need not keep facing an institutional blind eye.
HIPS reaches over 8,000 new sex workers every year through their mobile outreach program. They provide counseling, education, safer sex materials and clean syringes three nights a week, between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m., 52 weeks a year. They also run a stellar peer education and client advocacy program, as well as a 24-hour hotline for those in or affected by the sex trade.
Harm reduction is the name of the game with HIPS. With their help, and the help of similar organizations, HIV infection rates in the district have gone down 46% between 2007 – 2011, and those rates dropped a staggering 80% among intravenous drug users, one of HIPS primary targets of assistance.
Such accomplishments deserve a truly show stopping special guest, and HIPS found one in Laverne Cox. Widely beloved for her portrayal of transgender inmate Sophia Burset on “Orange is the New Black”, Cox’s media presence and advocacy for subjugated queer populations makes her a perfect fit for Thursday night’s event.
“She talks about the options and lack of options for women and particularly trans women of color,” says Hammell. “Talks about sex work and how it’s often the only option these women have. She mentions how her experience changed so much – she went from being a black man, perceived as a threat, to being a transwoman where everything is a threat to you. She’s had a lot of experience and a lot of views that seem relevant to the things we work with.”
For more information about HIPS and their 20th Anniversary, visit www.HIPS.org.
HIPS’ 20th Anniversary with special guest, Laverne Cox
Thursday, October 3, 2013 – 6:00 p.m.
Josephine Butler Parks Center, 2437 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC