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Supply of injecting needles and syringes central to HIV war among drug users

Youth and other people abusing drugs need constant supply of needles, syringes and other comprehensive package of care and support to stem the spread of HIV and Aids among them.

Speaking at the 7th edition of the NOPE Conference the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Programme Manager Dr Fayzal Sulliman observed that while Kenya's overall HIV prevalence stood at 6 per cent , the drug abusing population was three times more at 18 per cent within itself.

He dismissed concerns that  providing needles and syringes propagates the use of drugs citing best practices in the U.S.A that showed it did not instead it reduced the spread of HIV.

"We speak of evidence-based practice such as in Europe and the US where key populations of people who inject drugs had this intervention and it showed a remarkable reduction not only among them but also across the nation," he said.

Dr Sulliman said on the contrary Philippines resisted the programme and saw its population increase in HIV prevalence.

He said when drug users share syringes and needles HIV and other infections become inevitable.

Other medical risks and complications of injecting can include abscess formations, bacterial infections, damage to veins and venous clots to name but some problems.

He said other interventions for drug users include prevention and treatment of other sexually transmitted infections, condom programmes for people who inject drugs and their sexual partners and targeted information, education and communication plans for people who inject drugs and their sexual partners.

"Prevention, vaccination, diagnosis and treatment for viral hepatitis as well as for treatment of tuberculosis (TB) is part of the comprehensive intervention," he said.

Dr Sulliman gave example of his own country Mauritius where the programme recorded huge success.

"Needle and syringe programmes are interventions that provide clean needles and syringes to people who inject drugs to decrease the sharing of equipment and consequently reduce HIV transmission.

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