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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid