0n 7th September 2017, the Ugandan Ministry of Health authorized the Uganda Harm Reduction Network (UHRN) and Community Health Alliance Uganda (CHAU) to pilot needle and syringe programmes (NSP) in a few designated health facilities in the country.
This passage was the culmination of years of work by UHRN and our partner organisations. Although it has long been recognized that Uganda has a problem regarding drug use, unsafe injecting drug use was something that most of the people had limited knowledge about. In Uganda, people who inject drugs are one of the key population groups who together account for about 21% of new HIV infections. Recent studies estimate that HIV prevalence among this group is between 17-20% - much higher than the 6% prevalence in the general population.
Through advocacy by UHRN in partnership with CHAU and other stakeholders, the Government and general public have started recognizing the issue of unsafe injecting drug use in relation to HIV and hepatitis transmission. UHRN and CHAU have engaged with Uganda’s Ministry of Health and the Parliament’s committee for health, culminating with a realization of the need for NSP as a key intervention for strengthening Uganda’s HIV/AIDS response. As a result of several engagement meetings, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are being drafted to allow for a demonstration NSP project in the designated health facilities in Mulago MARPI Clinic, Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital, Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, and Butabika National Referral Hospital in Uganda.
The introduction of these supervised injecting facilities will have a real and positive impact in Uganda, both for people who inject drugs and for the wider community.
Slowly but surely, harm reduction programming is taking shape in Uganda and across the region, and we look forward to working with different partners and stakeholders to give UHRN the necessary support for implementing NSP in Uganda. The struggle continues – Support Don’t Punish!
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