ARASA’s Break the Chain Calls for Drug Policy Reform to Support People Who Use Drugs in East and Southern Africa

Posted by ARASA on July 15, 2016

ARASA’s Break the Chain Calls for Drug Policy Reform to Support People Who Use Drugs in East and Southern Africa

Windhoek; 11 July 2016—A peer educator at the Mwanyanyamala Methodone Clinic, Maziabi Salum also represents the Key Population (KP) of people who use drugs (PWUD) for the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) of the Global Fund against HIV, Tuberculosis and AIDS. He is also an ex-drug user himself. After 17 years of using drugs, he underwent a two-year drug therapy at the same clinic where he is now trying to help other drug users. As he describes it, he went “from zero to hero”.

Although there is a lack of country-specific data, there are approximately 333,000 people who inject drugs (PWIDs) living with HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). Some countries are estimated to have up to 45% of their population using illicit drugs. Not only do these people face human rights abuses due to their inability to access health and legal services but, they also face discrimination and legal punishment.

Just five years ago, Maziabi, along with five of his friends, switched from smoking heroin to injecting it. Four of these friends died; one is in prison, serving a long-term sentence.

The availability of health services to PWUD would dramatically reduce the number of people who contract and die of HIV or tuberculosis. This is one of the goals for ARASA’s Break the Chains campaign, which promotes a break away from the current lack of support for PWUD. These chains stigmatize PWUDs, push them further underground, which exposes them to further risks, and do not allow them to take part in the decision-making processes that affect them. ARASA is calling for comprehensive drug policies and better access to information and resources to supoort PWUD.

The aim is to achieve comprehensive service provision for these KPs, including a public health and harm reduction approach to drug policies in ESA, to ultimately increase and mobilize resources to better identify PWUDs and to provide them with access to quality care. This begins with creating awareness nationally, which will help ESA and their communities to understand the situation holistically and to bring policies and legal frameworks in line with the commitments expressed by the United Nations Declaration on HIV and AIDS.

Global policies promote the use of prevention efforts and harm reduction services that create safer practices and spaces for drug use, such as safe injection sites and opioid substitution therapy. Reforming drug policies in ESA to reflect international standards for support of PWUDs would provide the improved services for people who wish to escape what Maziabi called “hopelessness”.


Please watch Maziabi’s Story :

Attending AIDS 2016 you can attend a number of sessions addressing PWUD and Harm Reduction:

PWUD Networking Zone & Harm Reduction Programme

AIDS 2016 Programme -- PWUD and Harm Reduction Road Map