Tanzania's first methadone clinic in Dar es Salaam.

In 2011, the Tanzanian government took the amazing step forward of opening the country's first methadone maintenance clinic, and a new study is highlighting the huge successes the program has achieved thus far.

Prior to the clinics opening in the country's largest city, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania was struggling with a growing epidemic of people who inject drugs. Home to approximately 50,000 intravenous drug users (particularly heroin) and facing the complex issues of needle sharing and condomless sex; the prevalence rates of HIV began to increase at alarming rates.

But after only 2 years in operation, amazing things have begun to happen. In that short period of time, with funding assistance from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the methadone maintenance clinic located in a national hospital in Dar es Salaam managed to serve 629 people who were struggling with an addiction to opiates. Not only that, but they have managed to retain more than half of those patients over the course of 2 years in operation, which is an attrition rate comparable to programs in other countries.

Recommendations from the study include raising retention rates through focus on clients most at risk of attrition. Moving towards a focus on flexible options and higher dose treatment can be beneficial in retaining patients who may otherwise stray from the program. Client services and counselling can also help to address any other issues or barriers to treatment that the patients may be facing.

The first clinic's achievements have rubbed off, with a second methadone facility opening in Dar es Salaam in September 2012, and there are plans for three more facilities in the future.

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