By SANDRA CHAO
leaders and members of the public have been urged to embrace the needle
and syringe program that the government is set to introduce to drug
addicts next month.
Coast provincial director of public health and
sanitation Dr. Anisa Omar said that the injecting drug users(IDU) were
the most at risk populations with regards to the spread of HIV and the
program would go along way in preventing spread among addicts.
during an IDU roundtable at the Pride Inn hotel in Mombasa Dr Omar
noted that country could only move to a state of zero infection for HIV
if new infections were prevented.
"Many of the addicts we have at the
coast are injecting drug users, as much as these are ailing people we
need to prevent them from getting other
blood bone diseases,"she said
Dr Omar explained that the government
cannot embark on a project that is not beneficial to Kenyans and that
had not been tried and proven in other countries.
countries like USA, Mauritius,Tanzania, Canada, Ukraine and Vietnam have successfully implemented the program.
provincial Director explained that apart from HIV the IDUs were at a
greater risk of contracting diseases like Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C
which could result in liver failure and liver cancer.
According to a
report on HIV prevalence by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
released this year,one in every five injecting drug users in Nairobi
and co0ast provinces are living with HIV.
Over a third of the drug users sampled in the study admitted to have reused needles in the past six months.
The needle and syringe program is expected to target the 22,500 injecting drug users in Nairobi and
26,667 in Coast province.
Eight million needles and syringes are
expected to be rolled out in the next one year of the program which is
partly funded by USAID.
Dr Fred Owiti explained that the successful
execution of the program could help bring out the drug users and help
"Though the whole idea sounds awful the exchange
program will help organizations working with drug addicts build a trust
with them and help those willing to be rehabilitated.it has been tried
and proven that it can help prevent some of the vices like thuggery that
are associated with drug abuse," he said
Dr Owiti added that apart
from HIV counseling the program would provide an opportunity for drug
addicts to be given referral to rehabilitation centers and to access
other medical services.
NACADA Sheikh Juma Ngao urged religious
leaders not to dismiss the program without first getting to understand
what it was all about.
"I have seen
for myself what the program can do so why not use it here and save the
youth of this country who are already afflicted by drugs from
perishing," he said.
He noted that the government was yet to secure
the country's borders and drugs like heroin and cocaine still found
their way into cities of Mombasa and Nairobi.
opposing the view Famau
Ali Mohammed the chairman if community policing in Malindi noted that
by enrolling the program the government would be agreeing to the sale of
drugs in the country and urged the government to engage all
stakeholders in pursuing other avenues before rolling it out.