News / Africa

Kenyan Needle Exchange Program Faces Opposition

Promotion for upcoming Needle and Syringe Exchange Program, Teens Watch treatment center, Ukunda, Kenya, July 24, 2012. (VOA/J. Craig)
Promotion for upcoming Needle and Syringe Exchange Program, Teens Watch treatment center, Ukunda, Kenya, July 24, 2012. (VOA/J. Craig)
Jill Craig
In the shadows of tourist resorts and villas along the Kenyan coast, an increasing number of heroin addicts - sharing needles and engaging in unsafe sex - are driving up rates of HIV.

By implementing a needle exchange program along the coast and in Nairobi, the Kenyan government hopes to decrease its national HIV prevalence rates. But the effort is facing resistance from community leaders at the coast.

According to Kenya’s National AIDS and STI Control Programme, or NASCOP, the numbers of injecting drug users, known as IDUs, in Kenya have hit astronomical levels. Although exact figures are difficult to determine, NASCOP released a report in March of 2012 suggesting there are now more than 26,000 IDUs on the Kenyan coast alone.

Earlier NASCOP studies have found the overall HIV prevalence rate to be about 18 percent among IDUs in Nairobi and Mombasa - a rate significantly higher than the six percent found in the general population.

Shared needles

The 2012 report also says that a third of all IDUs have shared needles.

Dr. George Githuka leads the Most-at-Risk Population of HIV programs at NASCOP. He said that through the needle exchange program, IDUs will be able to visit select treatment centers to trade in their used needles and syringes for clean ones. He said they also will be provided education and introduced to additional treatment services. “Sharing needles is a driver of the epidemic among this population. It is a most effective way to prevent and control HIV among people who inject drugs. So being evidence-based, we are able to implement knowing that it would be effective,” Githuka said.

Githuka said the exchange program has been the target of much criticism from community leaders on the coast, but said that after a series of meetings with them, they now are willing to implement a small pilot program.

Critics

Not all of them, however, are pleased with this decision.

Amina Abdalla is the provincial coordinator for FADWO, the Fight Against Drugs Women’s Organization. Firmly against the exchange program, she agreed that HIV rates may decrease, but said that drug demand will skyrocket once needles and syringes are given out freely. “On my side, with my organization, we don’t agree. Because we know our government; it’s started something and then [will] leave it. So we know that our government is not ready to help us. So, this needle will never help this country. If they want to help our country [they should] come down and help our children who are infected. But not by giving them needles. So we’re talking about, we are not going to accept this,” Abdalla said.

According to Abdalla, proper needle and syringe disposal will be another challenge of implementing such a program at the coast. “Yeah, there are a lot of our children playing around everywhere. These drug addicts, after using this injection, they just dump it anywhere," she said. "So normally our children are playing outside in the garbage area, so they take those things and they play with [them]. So it is dangerous to our country because our country is not ready for cleaning. So we have a very bad environment in fact.”

Recovering heroin addict reads his Narcotics Anonymous book at Defence Drugs Women Organisation, Mombasa, Kenya, July 20, 2012. (Jill Craig/VOA)Recovering heroin addict reads his Narcotics Anonymous book at Defence Drugs Women Organisation, Mombasa, Kenya, July 20, 2012. (Jill Craig/VOA)
x
Recovering heroin addict reads his Narcotics Anonymous book at Defence Drugs Women Organisation, Mombasa, Kenya, July 20, 2012. (Jill Craig/VOA)
Recovering heroin addict reads his Narcotics Anonymous book at Defence Drugs Women Organisation, Mombasa, Kenya, July 20, 2012. (Jill Craig/VOA)
Myriad issues

Githuka admitted that proper disposal is a concern, but said the government will ensure appropriate measures are followed.  

“Community members have concerns, maybe about the disposal of the needles and syringes," he said. "They’re saying there might be disposal at the community level and various other concerns. Once we are able to dispel those concerns, or if challenges arise and we are able to tackle them, we’ll learn lessons. Then we’ll be able to move on to the other facilities quickly.”

Although the program may help reduce HIV prevalence rates, many heroin addicts admit that access to free needles will likely encourage them to use more of the drug.

Joseph is a 28-year-old boat operator in Diani, a beach located south of Mombasa. He has been doing heroin for six years. According to him, addicts would prefer rehabilitation as opposed to a needle-exchange program.  “A needle program, that is not a good issue even," he said. "There is no need of you to bring more needles. It’s better for us to help us. To take us to the place where we can be helped.”

The Kenyan government plans to implement the exchange program along the coast and in the capital,  Nairobi, by February.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid