In the mid-1990s, Mary Seawell and a small group of public health activists were battling to legalize safe needle exchange in Denver. Needle exchange can prevent the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users and, ultimately, save lives.

But the Denver City Council voted against decriminalization. Frustrated, one outspoken board member suggested that Seawell’s organization, People Engaged in Reduction Strategies (PEERS), break Denver’s laws and go ahead and provide needle exchange services.

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