In-depth: Deadly cocktail: HIV and drug use

KENYA: Abdullah Ali: "I need to get off the drug to remain HIV-negative"

Photo: Keishamaza Rukikaire/IRIN
A sachet of ‘white crest’, or crystal heroin
malindi, 23 November 2007 (PlusNews) - Abdullah Ali*, 55, has been hooked on heroin for close to 15 years. In rehabilitation for the fifth time in as many years, he spoke to IRIN/PlusNews about his struggle with addiction.

"The first time I smoked the cocktail of white crest [crystal heroin] and marijuana, I didn't know what was in it. I was a habitual marijuana smoker and this trader one day came from Mombasa and got me and my friends - we were a group of boat builders - and took us to his house to smoke.

"We stayed at his house smoking for about one week; we thought it was just weed. After a while he had to go to Mombasa to replenish his supply. As soon as he left, my friends and I fell very ill; we were weak, all had diarrhoea and were constantly vomiting. When we went to the hospital, they did tests but could not find anything wrong with us.

"When our friend and supplier came back, he was immediately told of our condition. He told everyone not to worry - he knew how to fix what was wrong with us. He came to my house and gave me what I still thought was weed; I immediately felt better, re-energised. This was when he told me that it was not actually a simple weed cigarette, but a cocktail of marijuana and heroin.

"Since then, I have been hooked on the cocktail. I have never injected heroin, but my life is still wasted. The drug has destroyed my life. My wife and children barely know me, and my boat-building business has collapsed because everyone knows that I'm an addict.

"When I'm high, I sleep with so many women, I don't care where I spend the night and I barely eat. I rarely use a condom, and yet I continue to sleep with my wife ... heroin has made me into an uncaring, selfish person.

"My brother has taken care of my family, and has sent me to rehab four times. It was free till last year, but now it costs a lot of money, so I know this is the last time he'll try to save me.

"When I came to rehab, my counsellor advised me to go for an HIV test. I was very scared; I knew the risks I'd taken. Mercifully, Allah has allowed me to remain HIV-negative. I need this time in rehab to work, because I want to be a good husband, father and provider. I need to stop risking everything to get high."


*Names have been changed
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Lead Feature

Overview: The route to the end-game

MAURITIUS: Dangerous paradise - sex, drugs and HIV

KENYA: The rise and fall of injecting drug use in Malindi

SOUTH AFRICA: Risky sex on drugs a challenge for HIV prevention

KENYA: Lower intravenous drug use, but HIV risks remain

MAURITIUS: Clean needles out of reach for injecting drug users

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

SOUTH AFRICA: Albert Van Der Walt: "We weren't stupid, we were just heroin addicts"

KENYA: Abdullah Ali: "I need to get off the drug to remain HIV-negative"
Links and References

Fact file
Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
World Drug Report 2007
South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (SACENDU)
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Other OCHA Sites
United Nations - OCHA
DFID - UK Department for International Development
Irish Aid
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation - SDC