Paul Yabor, Long-Time Advocate for Safe Injection, Dies of Drug Overdose

By Victoria Kim 05/24/17

Yabor was also a passionate advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Paul Yabor
Paul Yabor Photo via YouTube

Fifty-five-year-old Paul Yabor was a familiar face in Philadelphia’s harm reduction advocacy community, distributing clean syringes to the drug using population and adding his voice to community forums. He strove for a better life for others, but his advocacy was personal as well. Yabor died last Tuesday of a drug overdose.

Yabor was last seen giving out clean syringes at Prevention Point Philadelphia hours before his death. He’d been working with PPP for 12 years, helping to operate its syringe exchange program, give training on drug overdose prevention, and handing out naloxone.

Before his death, Yabor was working to establish a supervised injection site in Philly. Fellow advocate, Dan Martino, met Yabor at a meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in Philadelphia in January. 

Last Friday, the task force released a list of 18 recommendations—one of them was for the city to consider supervised injection sites. 

Yabor was also a passionate advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention, having been diagnosed with HIV in the ‘80s. “He was a person that was going through it, and all of these issues were very personal to him,” said Jose Benitez, the executive director of PPP. “He was often advocating from experience.” 

It hurt his fellow harm reduction workers to discover that Yabor died in the very place he would hand out clean syringes—a well-hidden area surrounding Conrail train tracks, which the Philly Inquirer describes as a “festering heroin hellscape,” a place of squalor, “garbage, drugs, and death.”  

Those who knew him say they didn’t suspect that the recovering drug user was using again.

“Throughout his lifetime, without a doubt he helped hundreds,” said Dan Martino. “It’s what he lived for. In some ways it seems like it was just as much to save himself as to save other people. There are so many of us who just wish he would have opened up to us about his struggle again.”

Benitez recalled that Yabor was in and out of recovery during the period of over 10 years that he had been working with PPP. Benitez says it’s a great loss for the harm reduction community.

“Paul wasn’t just an advocate in Philly either, he’s nationally known in the harm reduction community,” he said. “We’ve been getting calls and emails from people all over the country.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr