In-depth: Deadly cocktail: HIV and drug use

KENYA: Ali Mohammed: "If I go back to the drug, I will die"

My hand is still recovering from a 'mis-shot' when I missed my vein
Malindi, 29 November 2007 (IRIN) - Ali Mohammed*, 36, who lives in the coastal Kenyan town of Malindi, has been addicted to heroin for 18 years, and is now HIV-positive. He spoke to IRIN/PlusNews about his life.

"The first drug I tried smoking was bang [marijuana], and then I moved on to brown sugar [heroin]. When white crest [crystal heroin] came to the coast, I started taking that; it was much cheaper than brown sugar and there was lots of it around.

"When I moved to Nairobi to work as a plumber, I found that smoking the cocktail [white crest mixed with marijuana and tobacco] was not working for me; it was not strong enough for the cold season, so I started injecting myself with white crest.

"When I first started, none of my friends knew AIDS could be spread through sharing needles; we did this regularly, and used the same needle several times. Then many of our friends began to die and we didn't know why. We later discovered that they had died of AIDS.

"When I moved back to Malindi I lived rough in empty houses around town, and my plumbing business went down because people knew I was an addict. I tried rehab several times but always failed to stay away from the drug.

Earlier this year I again sought help for my addiction at The Omari Project. They referred me for VCT [voluntary counselling and testing] because I had several other illnesses that were not related to the drug.

"I tested positive for HIV, and also tested positive for TB [tuberculosis]. To be honest, I was not surprised - so many of my friends had already died and I had suspected that I too was infected.

"When I got sick my aunt and her husband took me in. It was kind of them, but they have put me in this tiny, dark, dirty room far away from the family. It is Ramadan and I don't eat all day, even though I'm sick - I must wait for the family to break their fast in the evening.

"It has been a month since I was diagnosed, since I last took white crest. My hand is still recovering from a 'mis-shot' when I missed my vein and it got infected.

"I know this is my last chance. I am on TB drugs and will start on ARVs when I finish them. If I go back to the drug, I will die."

kr/he

*Names have been changed
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