‘’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.