TACOMA, Wash. – The Tacoma man who started one of the nation’s first needle exchanges to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS among drug users has died at age 73.

The needle exchange David Purchase started in 1988 in downtown Tacoma was quickly copied across the nation, leading his friends and associates to call him a public health hero.

“When he began talking about the needle exchange, his sense of social justice, Dave didn’t have a neutral gear or a reverse gear,” said Lyle Quasim, a friend since 1970. “Dave only had forward gears.”

His daughter, Becky Purchase Ford, told The News Tribune that Purchase had on died Monday.

The Tacoma program, which was controversial at first, is now run by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Purchase went on to found the North American Syringe Exchange and the Point Defiance AIDS Project and was instrumental in programs that began as far away as Australia and Italy.