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Every Cloud has a silver lining

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‘’My eyes were red and burning, my malnourished body could  no longer attract anyone, I was weak and enfeebled, on logical grounds my 5 years in addiction had been one hell of an ordeal.’’ Diana.

‘Have you ever woken up one morning and hate your life, looking at yourself and feeling unworthy, lowliness and debase; living in a society that looks down upon you, judgmental and always criminalizing your behavior? Wondering why God is taking long to take away the life He gave you? I had lost purpose and life had no meaning, but one thing that kept me going was HOPE because I believed every cloud has a silver lining and God doesn’t give big fights to little soldiers,’ unfold Diana.

Through Reachout centre trust’s comprehensive medical outreaches which we routinely conducts in different drug hotspots at least after every three months, with the support of Global Fund through Kenya Red Cross society, in one of the highly populated hotspot which host most of the People who use drugs in Mombasa county (Go down) our Outreach team was able to interact with among few female drug users affected by drugs.

Diana; not her real name, she used to inject heroin and was on a medically devastating situation, her skin was pallid, she was cadaverous, wan and her condition was not appealing.

Diana had leg ulcers following a shootout (a scenario where  a person who inject drugs misses the vain) this is common among People who inject drugs because of the frequency of injecting, then came up an inflammation leading to an abscess, she was medically attended to and willingly agreed to do follow up at the Drop-In-Centre (DIC) for treatment and counseling.

“It was during the follow up session, counseling and the support I was accorded at the Reachout drop in centre that I opened up to my Doctor that I had defaulted from ART treatment because of my behavior though I was afraid, I was later  attached  to Peer case manager & I was linked back to treatment,’’ she narrates.

While back on her medication, her immune started to regain   and many opportunistic infections additionally started showing up, to fan the flames, after several tests she was diagnosed with TB, again she was linked to TB treatment.

Female drug users face more challenges than their counterparts because of their vulnerability in a male dominated environment, with unemployment rate higher among this Key population than the general public, female drug users are forced into sex work because they cannot get a job.

‘Five years back I was doing commercial sex work, I used not to take heroin but a friend made me use drugs, I used to send her for Marijuana not knowing she was adding heroin into it, it went on for quite sometime & I started noticing the difference when smoking marijuana not supplied with her, she later told me what she had been doing, I got frustrated and beat her up but there was nothing I could do about it,’ narrates Diana.

She swallows the bitter pill and accounts how she got HIV.

‘It was during my  early days of my addiction when I met my colleague who was injecting heroin, I was not aware people can inject too just to get high, she told me that one easily get high and heroin last longer in the body than smoking, she even made me try it, I dint even think twice and within a blink I had injected myself with the same needle, the lady was HIV positive and that’s how I ended up getting HIV, I wish I had much information as am now,’ Diana depict bitterly.

Due to her heroin addiction and substance demand, Diana was not compliant to her medication, she used to miss her sessions for her directly observed therapy at the Drop In centre and her wound care for days.

“Councilors and the Clinical team dint gave up on me, they keep on counseling me and seeing lots of recovering drugs users around me, it really motivated me to change,  I finally agreed to Opiod substitution therapy (Methadone) which has more advantage on my adherence,’’ pauses Diana.

She agreed to Methadone, assessment was done and she was inducted to Methadone program, now Diana looks ebullient and full energy, she has reformed and is ready to face life more enthusiastic.

Now on her recovery Diana had transformed health wise and her personality; she’s more charismatic, affectionate and robust, her family has accepted her back and her journey to sane does not only depends on Reachout but we all have responsibility towards accepting both recovering and drug users to get out of the jaws of death.

Stakeholders closeout meeting

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We had the privilege to share our journey with our stakeholders on HIV Prevention program targeting People who use drugs through the partnership with Global fund through Kenya Red cross since 2015.
The meeting brought together Probation department, Religious leaders, NACADA, Media and other civil society organization to deliberate on the same and having a sustainability plan of the program.
The peer led program had reached to over 1500 People who inject drugs with array of services to curb HIV transmission among this key population, find attached details of the same in the presentation below.

SR CLOSE PRESENTATION TEMPLATE

Sensitization of Member of county assembly

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Reachout centre trust director Taib Abdulrahman address Members of

county assembly during the forum

 

The County Assembly is the legislative arm of the County Government which makes laws to govern certain operations; the assembly also has oversight responsibilities on the county’s operational activities. Among the mandated bestowed upon them in the Government of Kenya 2010 Constitution is; to Receives and approve plans and policies and approves the budget and expenditure of the County Government, through this Reachout centre Trust and its partners plans to involve the County assembly in implementation of by laws that will see alleviate the status of People who use drugs in Mombasa.

With the partnership of United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime  and the support from Open Society Foundation of Eastern Africa, we sensitized members of county assembly on evidence based interventions for people who use drugs.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Head Regional Health Programme Sylvie Bertrand addressed on the neglected People who use drugs with their concerns not addressed in a right manner as policies have been harsh on them not only in Kenya but around the Globe and better approach through Legislators is what UNODC, Civil society organization’s call.

The forum featured the Mombasa County Medically assisted therapy successes, challenges and lessons learnt since inception of the program back in 2015, Civil society organization led by RCT Director as we called of Harm reduction Intervention for People who use drugs, reform of by laws that hinders effective & efficient service provision to people with substance abuse disorder.

Methadone program

Since inception of the MAT program in Mombasa, the centre is currently serving more than 700 clients taking methadone, the program have seen a lot of people who were using drugs reforming and integrated back to the community, a number of them have been absorbed by civil society organization as peer educators, other have started their own income generating activities like; car washing, barber shop and drivers, they are even honesty with their clinicians and councilors and frequently open up on issues affecting them.

MAT Beneficiaries present during the meeting; Deborah and Fadhil as well shared their testimonials during their dark days, challenges they got when accessing health services, stigma and discrimination from the community and family members & harassment from the law enforcers, the beneficiaries conquered a lot has changed since they started taking Methadone.

Members agreed that a lot still need to be done to curb drug menace in Mombasa including; having more centers to cater for clients in different areas, already there’s a plan to start a centre in Mwembe Tayari and porteriz, there’s a need for MAT users to register themselves in groups and seek non-interest loans from the County Government to fight unemployment and relapsing and Members of county assembly should look into by laws that hinder access to service for people who use drugs and reform them

 

National Response for PWUD

Margret Njiraini from NASCOP took members of county assembly through punitive drug laws that continue to contribute in stigmatization and discrimination of PWUD, there is a need to focus less on obtaining convictions and more on preventing addictions (Demand Reduction).  They called members of the County assembly to seek by laws that would seek to be treat people with addictions, not handcuffing them.
Arresting, prosecuting and incarceration, placing under criminal justice supervision for a drug law violation, yet instead of reducing problematic drug use, drug-related disease transmission or overdose deaths, the drug war has actually done more harm than problematic drug use itself.

Njiraini as well adds that there’s 18,000 PWID Nationally, as part of Key population this group’s prevalence is  three times higher than the general public because of their risky behaviors of Injecting drugs and their sexual behaviors, community stigma and discrimination contributes to this as they don’t freely access health and other crucial services because they have been neglected.

Who is the Problem?

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Photo: Courtesy

Once an addict always an addict; it’s never going to change.” How many people believe this out there? It could be the addict, or the one affected by addiction in one way or the other, or someone who has never had firsthand experience in addiction (personally or through observation); but in ways more than one, many people do believe in this myth. Not because there is any logical explanation supporting this statement but because it has been repeated over and over again that it has left an imprint in our minds to an extent of becoming an actualization of the self-fulfilling prophesy of the myth. Some even believe that addicts have to hit rock bottom in order for any change to be contemplated upon.

But why is the society so focused on stigmatization that it tends to isolate addicts, making them feel that they do not belong with the rest? Why is it that as a society, we view an addict as the cause of the problem and not as someone manifesting symptoms of the problem? We are always so quick to judge because the predicament has not hit close to home and when it does, we are very silent, not uttering a single sound when we should be creating or raising awareness.

And why is drug addiction the only type of addiction you have in mind right now? I have not specified any category and yet some already assumed it is drug related. I don’t blame you; believe me, I wouldn’t even dare. It’s based on the fact that we cannot ignore the effects nurture has on us; the society wires us into thinking in certain perspectives that it makes it very challenging to openly think outside the tiny box. But don’t worry; Reachout Centre Trust’s got you.

If you are interested in any way, feel free to pop in by at our Drop in Centre in Old Town; but if your free time is limited in such a way that it makes it challenging to skedaddle to our office, we will use this platform to enlighten you to the best of our ability, regardless of the psychological issue presented. So frequently visit our site to get more updates.

 

Tales of Courage; Prison never changed my Moirai

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My name is Giggs, a 39 year old recovering drug user and self employed barber.  I started using drugs when I was 19 years old back then in 1998, because of friends and peer pressure. As a young person, I only used to smoke cigarette and marijuana, I had no interests with heroin. My friends had an all pass access to my place simply because I was living alone, they used to influence to try heroine and their motive triumphed.

I started using heroin and by 1999, I became an addict who could do anything a junkie would do just to satisfy my thirst for drugs.

Back then, I used to work as a driver. I lost my casual job because of my addiction and I was mentally drained. It was very hard to process such news in my head but I knew I had to cope up with the situation. Living in a city where finding a job is a job as well, I ended up selling all my belongings and ended up in the street in a time when my family would not want to hear anything about me as I used to steal from them as well.

I joined several criminal gangs because I could no longer be trusted for employment as I was criminalized because of my behavior. We would steal day and night but all we got we used it for drugs. I have had several incidents (more than ten times) where I have been lynched by the public after our deals turned sour. It’s only by God’s grace that I am narrating this to you. Not less than ten members of our gang were torched to death by angry members of the public. I have been in and out prison seven times, but all this time it didn’t click to me that I needed to change even after coming out of prison clean.

By 2013, I was fed up with the kind of life I was living, a life with no purpose and no future plans. I had lost track of my life and would let drugs take control. I felt so counterproductive, hopeless, and worthless and my life had no meaning. It’s then that I met a friend who told me about Reachout and the work they do in supporting people with drugs addiction to overcome their drug dependence. He took me to their DIC and I met a lot of my peers which really motivated me that I was not alone in this. I went through several counseling sessions by senior counselor Alfred Karisa as I was going through a lot of Trauma by then. I got the support I’d been longing for; mentally, spiritually, emotionally and above all I was shown love and affection.

I wanted to change my life but I had no one to sponsor me for drug dependency treatment. I was informed about methadone which was set to be implemented in Mombasa and I willingly agreed to it. I kept in touch with my counselors and almost one and half year later around 2015 the program started; I was among the chosen few.

During my first month at the methadone program, my life positively changed a lot from my physical appearance to experience emotion growth and how I even interacted with people. As much as I still experienced stigma, I tried not to create self stigma. It was during this moment when I was still trying to find a Job when one of my childhood friends who was keenly following on my progress asked me to start a barber shop. It had never rang in my head that I was skilled barber since my childhood; he even offered to assist me to open one.

So I started my small barber shop and every day after taking methadone I would come at my shop. My community did not fully accept me as others used to think that I’ve not fully reformed, while I had those who supported me in my recovery. Two years down the line, even those who didn’t believe in me come for my service and it is really humbling. I even have plans to expand my business, mentor and employ more youths if all goes well.

I’m more grateful for my family for accepting me in my recovery. I now have a family and I’m taking good care of them. It’s just my wish that the community will support people with substance abuse because the stigma causes more harm than good.

Call for entries Reachout Centre Trust- Media awards

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REACH OUT- MEDIA AWARDS-2017

Reach out Centre trust is a non- governmental organization that is working towards quelling drug abuse in the coastal region.

For the last 14 years we have been providing  harm reduction services, preventive and treatment services to those affected by or vulnerable to Alcohol, Drug Abuse (ADA) and HIV and AIDS in the Coastal area of Kenya.

We are this year recognizing Journalists who have been working towards enabling us attain our goals and highlighting positive stories towards efforts in containing drug abuse in the region.

We are launching the first and unique edition of the Reach out Media awards under the theme Drug Policy reform for sustainable Development.

NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCES CONTROL ACT is an act of parliament in respect to the control of the possession of, and trafficking in, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and cultivation of certain plants; to provide for the forfeiture of property derived from, or used in, illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and for connected purposes.

What is Drug Policy?

A drug policy is the policy, usually of a government, regarding the control and regulation of drugs considered dangerous, particularly those which are addictive. For example, heroin is regulated almost everywhere.

Governments try to combat drug addiction with policies which address the supply of drugs, as well as policies which can mitigate the harms of drug abuse and for medical treatment.

 

What is Drug Policy Reform?

 

Drug policy reform is proposed changes to the way governments respond to the socio-cultural influence on perception of psychoactive substance use.

Rather than using laws and enforcement as the primary means to responding to substance use, governments and would be better served by reducing harm, demand and regulating the production, marketing, and distribution of currently illegal drugs in a manner that would reduce human right violations through punitive laws.

Proponents of drug law reform argue that relative harm should be taken into account in the regulation of controlled substances.

War on drugs is doing more harm than good. Together we need to advocate for policies that reduce the harms of both drug use and seek solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies.

Drug policies needs no longer to arrest, incarcerate, disenfranchise and otherwise harm People who use drugs.

 

Call for entries RCT- Media awards

It is with the above reference that Reachout Centre Trust is calling towards Coast based Journalists to submit their stories/features in the TV, Radio, Print, Online and Photography work categories  under the theme Drug Policy reform for sustainable Development.

The Entries must have been published/broadcast within this year, this being from March 2017 to 25th October 2017.  Submission deadline for entries is 30th October, 2017.

In TV, Radio, Print, Online and Photography work, Journalists should consider the guidelines below in perfecting their Stories/Feature before submission;

  • Journalists are required to provide well researched and original work of the health of drug users in the coast region.
  • challenges faced by drug users within the Coast region because of Drug Policies as stipulated in the constitution under the (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substance control Act) how human right defenders, CSO’s have come to bridge the gap between the security agents and people who use drugs with an aim of containing human rights violation against drug users.
  • Fight against drug trafficking in the Coast region through Supply Reduction, Demand reduction and Harm Reduction in Coast and other parts for the Country and its impact.
  • Reformed and Recovering people who use drug who have been working toward regaining fresh life by either staring their own income generating activities.
  • Reachout Centre Trust will as well recognize Journalists who had been working tirelessly in highlighting positive stories/Feature in the field of Substance abuse disorder.

 

Rules

  • Only professional Journalists practicing in (Television, Print, electronic & Online) are legible to place their entries in the ‘Reach out-Media awards’
  • The (Feature item, Both in Television, Print, radio and Online) should have been aired from March 2017 – October 2017
  • A clear original work from Journalists will be accepted. No plagiarism, copied entries will be accepted in this competition.
  • A Journalists should provide An Mp3 audio CD for Radio, Audio Visual for Television and cut of a copy of a newspaper the story was published
  • On online materials, a link like should be proved and a clear date the article was published also provide a hard copy when submitting your entry.
  • For Photo Journalists, provide at least 5 clear original photos published for the judges to select the best.
  • Journalist will be awarded in a sequence of Winner of the category and 1st runners up.
  • Journalist can have 2 entries per category
  • The judge’s decision is final.
  • The Competition is ONLY legible for Coast based Journalists
  • All entries to be addressed to Reachout Centre Trust, P.O BOX 84929 Mombasa or hand delivery to our offices situated in Old town, Kibokoni road.
  • A photocopy of your Identification card and Press card.

For any inquiries, kindly email us at media@reachout.or.ke

 

 

Chronicles of Female sex workers

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Female sex workers are one of the groups most affected by HIV and AIDS, with HIV infection rates much higher than those of the general population because of their lifestyle and occupation.

The vulnerability of Female sex workers to HIV infection is compounded by attitudes of stigma and discrimination; they are marginalized and often face abuse, violence from their clients, absence of legal protection, extreme social isolation, police harassments, obstacles in accessing friendly substantial health care services and lack of community support. This is because sex work has been considered a taboo since time immemorial and those practicing it are perceived as outcast and are blasphemed.

Maria, not her real name, a single mother of two shares her experience having worked as a sex worker since 2008 when she was just but a teenager trying to make ends meet when she could no longer bare the pangs of poverty.

“I got pregnant when I was in high school and the so called boyfriend fled away. All was not well as my parents always scolded at me until I decided to evade from home,” she narrates.  “Things became even tougher when I gave birth to my first child whilst hosted by a friend who was a female sex worker. I could no longer depend on her; I knew I had to be self reliant and that’s when I decided to join the club.”

On a good night, Maria would make Ksh 3000 (30$) which would mostly go on the basic needs of her family that depends on her for everything.

“Unemployment is what dragged me here. It’s not a walk in the park for this kind of work; we face a lot of challenges in our daily hustles and it’s not an easy job either for the soft-hearted. I’ve been physically abused by a client who refused to pay me after the ‘service’; it’s even hard to report such matters to the police because even the police terrorize and extort money from us. We are exposed to the heightened risk of HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), and unwanted pregnancies that exist among us female sex workers,” Maria depicted bitterly.

“We’ve had enough of these challenges; we need better working environment, and friendly health care services. The society needs to know that we’re part of them and end the discrimination against us and our families,” ceased Maria.

With the support of our development partner Global Fund through Kenya Red Cross Society, we are reaching out to female sex workers in Taita Taveta County with numerous services in our comprehensive outreach and in our Drop In centre in Voi in order to curb HIV transmission among this Key Population and to create a conducive working environment for them. This is due to the fact that the HIV infection rates among the key population globally are more than five times higher compared to that of the general population.

The integrated program uses peer educators to reachout to female sex workers to bring them closer to us so that they can access services they need.

At our Drop in Centre, they come for friendly Clinical services, HIV testing and counseling, lubes, condoms, moral and psychosocial support for those who experience deprivation and abuse, have been stigmatized, have witnessed atrocities, have suffered overwhelming grief or might have any other issue that may require psychological support.

County Leadership Dialogue, Diani Kwale County

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People who use drugs are frequently have their rights violated because of the risky behaviors they indulge in; the criminalization of drugs makes them inherently vulnerable to police and community harassments hence facing stigmatization, dishonor and besmirchment from the community and service givers.

It is on that note that through the support of our Development partners Open Society Foundation of Eastern Africa, we  partnered with United Nation Office of Drugs and Crime, we organized a county leadership dialogue with the Kenya police, prison wardens, health care givers, National AIDS Control Council, Teens watch and other stakeholders from Kwale County to deliberate on this matter in order to stop; Discrimination, stigmatization and Human rights violation among this vulnerable group which its prevalence of HIV transmission is higher than the general public, instead we need to support Harm reduction interventions by Reachout centre trust and other like-minded organization, we as well need to promote social inclusion and efficiency service delivery among this key population to prevent new HIV infection among this group and linking to care the affected.

Participants had an interaction session with recovering drug users whom they shared their testimonials when using drugs, the challenges faced when seeking health services and the prejudice from the society which forces them to create self stigma and isolating their families and society at large.

Kwale county has an HIV prevalence of 5.7%, the Key population statistics is estimated to be 1,503; with 1,112 female sex workers, 257 men having sex with men and 134 Injecting drug users according to National HIV Estimates 2016. Out of estimated   21,000 persons currently living with HIV in Kwale, 2,659 are children and infants.

Judicial Engagement Dialogue Forum.

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Through the support of our Development partners Open Society Foundation of Eastern Africa, in partnership with United Nation Office of Drugs and crime & PEMA Kenya in sensitizing the Judiciary among them High court judges from both Mombasa and Shanzu law court, Prison wardens, Kenya police, County legal department, Department of Criminal investigation and Human rights organizations on effective service delivery to Key population.

The two day forum meant to engage Stakeholders in the Justice System and Court users in their role in service delivery with focus on specific Policies, guidelines and interventions on Key population, how to consolidate them in their duties with emphasis on improvement of the speed and quality of service delivery so that KP’s can experience a qualitative difference in the services offered by our Courts.

The forum aimed to Increase knowledge to participants on their roles in addressing violence and mitigating key populations issues through penal code as well as protection of human rights of key affected populations.

Dr.Fayzal Suleiman took participants through; overview of Harm Reduction, Demand reduction and Supply reduction as interventions to combat the drug use in Kenya, he further explained the impact of Harm reduction which is spearheaded by Reachout centre trust and likeminded CSO’s in Mombasa compared to Supply reduction which has cost the Government a lot of money but still suppliers are walking freely and more young people are using drugs.

The participants were taken through Overview of Policies and guidelines meant to enhance effective service delivery in dispensation of justice by Deputy Registrar Mombasa Law court Ivy Wasike, the probation department on the other hands as well ensures that clients with Drug use related cases get the psycho-social support they entail to get through their staffs or linkage with like-minded Civil society organization, this wouldn’t be possible without full support of County Director of Probation Mombasa, Mr.Nick Makuu.

Shanzu law court with the lead of Magistrate Diana Mwachache ensures suspects with minor offences with drug related background are linked to probation department or CSO’s to get psycho social support, Mwachache goes further to examine the clients to ensure they are drug users and does follow up with them.

The forum as well saw the attendants taken through Overview of Key population, Gender and sexual minorities marginalized due to their nature in terms of sexual practices and gender identification, the group faces a lot of challenges in terms of accessing healthcare services in public hospitals, stigmatization and discrimination as well from general public.

 

County inspectorate sensitization on People who use drugs.

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Through the support of our Development Partners Open Society Foundation of Eastern Africa, we sensitized Mombasa county inspectorate on People who use drugs at Pride Inn Hotel Shanzu.

The inspectorates were taken through the methadone dispensation clinic at frère town dispensed in partnership with the county government of Mombasa, UNODC, Reachout centre trust and MEWA where more than 500 recovering drug users get methadone since its inception.

They as well get to know the stages of dispensing methadone to recovering drug users till they are wind off from the program which may varies from the clients.

The county inspectorates were taken on how we can effectively work together to ensure PWUD attain quality healthcare and combat stigma and discrimination which causes most of them to miss quality healthcare and what we can do to create enabling legal environment for PWUD to leave with no fear of police harassments because possession of drugs is criminalized, this effectively criminalizes people who use drugs themselves.

People who use drugs are therefore inherently vulnerable to police interference and harassment, being publicly searched, being subjected to “mob justice” by the public, being arrested and being imprisoned.