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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs