5th May 2022 - UNODC and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (The Global Fund) formalized collaborations between the two organizations with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by the principals of the two organizations. This MoU will facilitate the implementation of the Global Fund Strategy, the UNODC Strategy 2021-2025 and the Global AIDS Strategy 2021-2026 in addressing HIV among people who use drugs and people in prison. Thus, the two organizations have partnered to continue the series of webinars to drive the implementation and scaleup of harm reduction interventions in selected African countries that have grant programmes from the Global Fund targeting key populations (KPs), in particular people who use drugs.
In this respect, UNODC, in collaboration with The Global Fund and WHO, organized a webinar in Tanzania and Zanzibar on the theme, “Implementation of HIV prevention, treatment and care interventions among people who use drugs in Tanzania and Zanzibar.” The webinar featured high-level representatives from government agencies such as the Drug Control and Enforcement Authority and the Department of Prisons of mainland Tanzania, the Ministry of Health of Zanzibar, the Mauritius National Drug Secretariat as well as representatives from The Global Fund, UNODC, Médecins du Monde and Mainline. The webinar aimed to encourage stronger political commitment and a synergic approach in response to the HIV epidemic on the country level, including mobilization and allocation of adequate resources for HIV/AIDS-related activities, and to share experiences and knowledge and exchange best practices to scale up harm reduction interventions.
The webinar was opened with speeches from Ms. Sylvie Bertrand, Deputy Regional Representative for Eastern Africa, UNODC and Ms. Sarah Asiimwe, Fund Portfolio Manager, The Global Fund. They highlighted UNODC’s core mandate on HIV/AIDS response and The Global Fund’s commitment to supporting harm reduction programmes, respectively. The event’s opening remarks were given by the Commissioner General of the Drug Control and Enforcement Authority (DCEA), Mr. Gerald Kusaya. He indicated that the DCEA is leading a multisectoral partnership to establish and maintain harm reduction services for PWUDs, including the treatment and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorders.
The event saw presentations from government agencies and civil society organizations (CSO). On the government agency side, Dr. Peter Mfisi, Commissioner for Prevention and Treatment, DCEA, noted that through Médecins du Monde-administered drop-in-centers and activities in Temeke districts, Tanzania became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to implement harm reduction interventions for PWIDs in 2010. He added that, currently, 5 NSP clinics are operating in Dar es Salaam and parts of the coastal region serving 3,500 PWIDs, while a total of 11,600 PWID/PWUD are utilizing the 15 MAT clinics across Tanzania, including one clinic in a prison setting, for opioid agonist therapy (OAT). In his presentation, Dr. Mansour Maulid Mshenga, Treatment Coordinator, Ministry of Health (Zanzibar) Integrated HIV, Hepatitis, TB and Leprosy Programme, highlighted the measures the Ministry has taken to prevent HIV among KPs in Zanzibar and the impact of COVID-19 on harm reduction service provision in Zanzibar. Dr. Abdulatif Mkingule, Head of Medical Services, Department of Prisons Services, provided an overview of MAT services in prison settings, focusing on the satellite clinic at Segerea Prison in Tanzania. He indicated that the satellite clinic, which began operating in November 2021, has 79 clients enrolled on methadone. Mr. Sewraz Corceal, Programme Coordinator, Mauritius National Drug Secretariat, shared the experience and knowledge of the harm reduction programme in Mauritius. He highlighted the involvement of PWIDs and the media, as well as close collaboration between government and NGOs/CSOs, as some of the key factors that aided the successful implementation of harm reduction interventions in Mauritius
Speaking on the side of CSOs, Ivan Duran, General Coordinator Tanzania/Kenya, Médecins du Monde, presented on “the journey from advocacy to implementation of harm reduction services in Tanzania from the civil society perspective.” He noted that, although advocacy has succeeded because most national relevant strategies recommend harm reduction and intervention programmes are ongoing, gaps still remain in implementation guidelines, data tools, etc. Harm Reduction experts from Mainline, Ancella Voets and Agnes Msami, jointly presented the findings from a study on the topic “Assessment of barriers to HIV prevention & treatment services among women who use drugs in Dar es Salaam & Coast Region.” These findings included: i) most women who use drugs do not manage to negotiate or practice safe sex; ii) very few women who use drugs have access to sexual & reproductive health & rights (SRHR) services; iii) many women who use drugs are marginalized in their own family/household, iv) waiting times and bureaucratic requirements for accessing MAT continues to be notable barriers for women who use drugs. They then provided some recommendations, such as i) enhancing the resilience of women who use drugs by supporting female peer support networks; ii) creating awareness & knowledge among staff to reduce stigma & abolish stigmatizing requirements; and iii) regular supportive supervision for MAT clinics to improve services and reduce stigma. They added that these recommendations would go a long way to mitigate these challenges.
The meeting was closed by Dr. Fayzal Sulliman, Head, Health and Social Development Pillar, Regional Office for Eastern Africa, UNODC. He thanked all the participants and reiterated UNODC’s preparedness to continue close cooperation with the Member States in Eastern and Southern Africa.