Presenting author: Kiriba Kariuki
Drug User Mobilization for services in a criminalized Legal Environment of COVID-19 pandemic – Case of Kenya
Kiriba Kariuki, Godwin ooko
Issue: PWUDs are the most challenging to mainstream in achieving the 95-95-95 objectives against HIV/AIDS in Kenya due to the discrimination, stigmatization, and criminalization by state and non-state actors denying PWUDs access to services during public health emergency of the COVID-19.
Setting: VOCAL KENYA is a Kenyan-based drug policy and human rights organisation committed to reducing the health, social and economic harms associated with drug use and the harms caused by stringent drug policies in East Africa. The Restrictions on the movement made it impossible for harm reduction outreach and drop-in center activities to continue. PWUDs experienced disruption of ART services, NSP posing increased risk of sharing injecting equipment, increased police raids in the drug-using sites, increase in police violence during curfew hours.
Key Arguments: Drug user (DU) mobilization is an effective strategy in the response to HIV/AIDS in the community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Electronic media and agile peer outreach workers on bikes improved access to emergency NSP. Working in these conditions can easily brand you/r registration criminalized community.
Milestones: National guidelines on the COVID-19 pandemic in strict terms frowns on mobilization and gathering during the COID-19 pandemic. We scaled through the requirements due to the public health context in which COVID-19 was presented.
Our community-based support utilized a type of ‘neighborhood watch’ initiative, called ‘Nyumba kumi’, comprising 10 houses that act as the grassroots organizational structure established by the government at the village level. We then organized community health volunteers around these structures for security
VOCAL KENYA provided incognito emergency NSPs to 790 IDUs in June and November 2020
The project linked and re-inducted 7 beneficiaries to OST and ART services, and distributed 4,000 Condoms to PWDs. Facilitated 10 live sessions on local radio FM. Now receives 15 to 20 emergency NSP distress calls every month.