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The visitors from Kenya participated in the Mauritian Conference on Harm Reduction and visited harm reduction programmes run by Collectif Urgence Toxida (CUT), the first NGO to implement needle exchange programmes in Mauritius. For more information about CUT visit their Facebook page.
Drug users in Mauritius can access a variety of services run by NGOs or the government, including methadone substitution therapy, needle exchange and drug rehabilitation. CUT provides services at fixed sites as well as in caravans that move from one location to another. In addition to needle exchange, the sites are equipped to conduct testing for HIV, hepatitis C and sexual transmitted infections. Testing is carried out by a nurse and is offered twice a week to drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men.
The outreach workers employed at the needle exchange sites are selected by and among members of the local community, including people who have themselves used drugs. Before being deployed at a site, they are trained on transmission and effects of HIV and hepatitis C, legal aspects of drug use, social and behavioural issues related to drug use, principles and practice of harm reduction, and how to protect themselves from contamination and exposure to violence.
The outreach workers operate in pairs, one giving out equipment and the other registering clients and collecting data. They provide syringes and needles, as well as “steri-mix” packages consisting of a spoon, a filter, and alcohol swabs. While clients are encouraged to return syringes it is not compulsory, but users who do not bring syringes for exchange (85% of clients do) get fewer syringes. In addition to providing services, the outreach workers have an important role to raise awareness about harm reduction in the local communities.
Efficient and cost effective
“It was rather an opener to witness how harm reduction interventions can be efficient and cost effective as a public health measure that promotes drug users dignity” said one of the visitors from KANCO, the Alliance’s Linking Organisation in Kenya and participating organisation in the Alliance’s 5-country Community Action on Harm Reduction (CAHR) programme. “As a Kenyan, I feel we too can replicate similar harm reduction interventions, through the implementation the CAHR programme, to improve the quality of life of our drug using community and share our evidence not only within the country but also with our nations worldwide.”
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