Drug users say they need medical prescription rather than being arrested

The Burundian Alliance against HIV/AIDS and for Health Promotion (ABS) organizes from this 17 April, a two-day meeting with the decision-makers on HIV/AIDS and harm reduction for People Who Inject Drugs-PWID.

Drug taking often leads to drug addiction

Drug taking often leads to drug addiction

“I have been detained twice in four years- for consuming drugs”, says Daniel Sakiri, 54, a heroin drug user for 25 years. Sakiri says he becomes weak when he lacks drugs to inject. “We have no strength to work and have a bellyache which afterwards causes diarrhea. Then, we do not have any other choice than taking drugs”, he says. Sakiri also says he doesn’t know what to do to give up drugs. “Detaining us is not a good option to help us, but we really need treatment through medical prescription”, he says.

Mrs. Akimana, 20, another drug user for over two years, faces the same challenge. “It is not easy to have access to the serum for injection. Then, one serum is shared among five or six drug users with a risk of being contaminated with HIV/ AIDS or other infectious diseases”, she says. Akimana also says a drug box is very expensive. “A small quantity usable once costs BIF 5000 and we are compelled to steal or have sex for money”, she says.

Salvator Masabo, Chief of the department of National Police Inspection, says the police track down drug users to protect them in particular and the society in general. “Arresting drug users helps us discover other people involved in the chain of drug dealers precisely producers and traders”, he says. He also says the police want to dismantle the drug network and contribute to the reduction of drug use.

Gérard Mbonabuca, ABS Legal Representative says that the PWID exist in Burundi and need to be supported. “People who take drugs on the sly increase in number day after day. We are conducting a survey to identify them”, says Mbonabuca. The ABS Legal Representative calls on decision-makers to contribute to the sensitization campaign towards the population on the detrimental effects of consuming drugs.

Adolphe Banyikwa, Chairman of the permanent commission of Social Affairs and Health at the National Assembly, says MPs will plead for the adoption of the draft bill on PWID. “The majority of drug users include young people and students. We must work together to handle the issue”, he says.

According to the United Nations Office on Drug Control (UNODC), people who inject drugs are 28 times more likely to get infected with HIV than other people. Globally, there are more than 12 million people who inject drugs and about 1.6 million out of them are reported to be living with HIV. Available statistics indicate that HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs in the Sub-Saharan region averages 30%.

According to WHO, there are estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV today. Currently, Africa accounts for more than 70% of the Global AIDS epidemic with 91% of all HIV positive children in the world living in Africa.