Saturday, July 14, 2012

Needle exchange program

By SANDRA CHAO

Religious 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.
Speaking 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.
The 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 rehabilitate them.
"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.

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