In Memoriam
Rod Sorge was one of NYC’s most articulate, knowledgeable, and empathic voices on harm reduction for drug users. Rod had an enormous influence on how people think about drug use and AIDS, taking the groundbreaking position that addicts have rights.
It was illegal to provide drug users with clean syringes in NYS until 1992. Rod helped bring that change about. He cofounded the ACT UP needle exchange, the first in NYS, ran the then underground Bronx & Harlem needle exchange programs, and later headed the first state authorized sharps distro. Rod was also the first person arrested for handing out clean rigs in New Jersey, having the charges dismissed under the Necessity Defense.
Rod and Heather were close friends and allies in the burgeoning harm reduction community. Among his many writings on the subject, Rod, Heather and others coauthored Getting Off Right: A Safety Manuel for Injection Drug Users (published by HRC). One of my favorite articles by Rod was Just Say No to ‘Just Say No’. In his piece Needle Exchange: One Model (Drug Policy in the Age of AIDS: The Philosophy of ‘Harm Reduction’, 1990) he explains the importance of the relationships built among drug users through their interactions with needle exchange workers. It was this holistic healthcare approach that was moving away from strictly sharps distribution that led the way to how the field operates today. He was also open about his own use, and his HIV diagnosis. As he detailed in an article for the junkphood, The Book of Death, Vol 1, "One Junky's Odyssey,"
Rod was involved in countless demonstrations on behalf of PWA’s. He was one of the ACT UP activists jailed during the Stop the Church action at Saint Patrick's cathedral. When singer Diamanda Galas testified to his character at the trial, she dubbed him Saint Rod. Along with Heather, he was also one of the original members of the Harm Reduction Working Group, which shaped the direction the field would move in the future.

Rod died of an AIDS related illness in 1999.
He’s missed by all of us who loved him.
This Polaroid to the left  is by New York based artist Stephen Barker, who worked alongside Rod at the first NYC needle exchange.  His photographs of AIDS activists are some of the most enduring images of the epidemic.  They are deeply personal images from life along the viral frontier. - Greg Ellis 2021