By Patrick Beja
The Government is in the process of introducing free needles and syringes to injectable narcotic drug users in the country.
The project to be rolled out later this month by the ministry of Public Health and Sanitation has divided leaders in the region down the middle with some supporting it while others vowing to oppose it.
Those who oppose the project, similar to the introduction of condoms, insist that it would encourage more people to engage in the abuse of narcotic drugs while the rest maintain that it would minimise the spread of HIV/Aids through sharing of contaminated needles by users of heroin.
About eight million needles and syringes will be distributed in the next one year under the project.
The leaders were speaking during a sensitisation meeting at the weekend attended by religious leaders, medical doctors and drug addicts’ care-givers in the country.
The leaders met at a time when statistics indicated that there were 26,000 IDUs in Mombasa and 20,000 others in Nairobi. And anti-drug crusaders warned the number of IDU was growing fast since heroin was being contained and users preferred injected stuff to get high as the current drugs were not as effective.
Sheikh Famau Mohamed Famau from Malindi said that religious leaders were opposed to such intervention because it would encourage more youth to engage in drug abuse.
“The religious community is opposed to this project and must be consulted before its introduction. We support the establishment of more rehabilitation centres for drug addicts and not distribution of needles and syringes,” said Famau, chairman of the Maarufu anti-drug project in Malindi, said.
However, Sheikh Juma Ngao, a director at the National Agency Against Drug Abuse Authority (Nacada), urged religious leaders in the country to back the intervention to save lives of hundreds of youth in the country.