12 July 2012

Kenya: Syringes Blamed for Aids Spread

About 80 per cent of drug addicts at the Coast are HIV positive yet most of them do not engage in sex, according to Ministry of Health statistics. Celina Githinji, an officer with the of the Municipal Council of Mombasa's public health department, said the majority of heroin addicts do not contract the virus through sex.

The official, who was speaking to journalists during a training organised in Mombasa by Internews, added that most drug users do not get syringes from chemists but pick them anywhere and dispose them carelessly after use. "Now what we do to help reduce risks of HIV infections is to enlighten, counsel and empower them by letting them know of the risks associated with used syringes and how to cleanse syringes before use," Githinji said.

This revelation comes amid a debate over a government programme to distribute free syringes to drug users, as a way of reducing HIV infections and discourage them from continuously taking the drugs. Githinji said there are 12 rehabilitation centres which have been established in Coast region. The centres, she said, have rehabilitated about 2,900 drug users including two deaf female addicts. At the same time, the participants were told that almost a third of all new HIV infections are attributable to Most at Risks Persons (MARPS), according to a research conducted by the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS).

While tabling the statistics, Janet Musimbi of International Center for Reproductive Health said that implies that about 110, 000 people are affected, each year. Musimbi noted that the HIV prevalence increasingly grows at a higher rate as compared to the general population. "Statistically, the HIV prevalence ranges in Kenya from 20 percent to 50 percent," said Musimbi.

According to the report released in the year 2008/2009, approximately 1.45 million people live with HIV/AIDS. "According to statistics, Coast province is at 4.2 percent as compared to the national average of 6.3 percent," she added. She also warned the media against stereotyping commercial sex workers and injecting drug users as this will enhance conflict amongst Kenyans in general.

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