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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs