Research results will support lobby work and improve training curricula to address needs of Kenyan PUD

In Kenya, the rights of people who use drugs (PUD) are often violated. On the one hand, the country’s Constitution and recently developed health policies and guidelines recognise the human rights, including the health rights, of PUD. On the other hand, the group is criminalised under the country’s laws related to drugs. As part of the Bridging the Gaps programme, Mainline and its partner organisations in Kenya recently conducted research to provide insight into this contradictory situation and the impact on their work aiming at HIV and hepatitis C prevention.

Mainline’s partners in Kenya that work on promoting the human rights of PUD, particularly their health rights, face the challenge that these rights are often violated by the government, law enforcement agencies, health workers, and the community. PUD are criminalised under the Kenyan Narcotic Act, resulting in stigmatisation and discrimination. They are frequently harassed by the police and denied access to health care, prevention services, and treatment by general health workers.

Kenyan partners

To adequately protect the rights of PUD, the availability of relevant data is paramount. Therefore, Mainline and its Kenyan partners, the Muslim Education Welfare Association (MEWA), The Omari Project, and Reachout Centre Trust (RCT) did research, consisting of a desk study and a field study. The assigned researcher closely collaborated with the Kenyan organisations KELIN and Liverpool VCT, Care and Treatment (LVCT).

Inventory of contradictions: war on drugs versus constitution

The desk study resulted in an inventory of contradictory laws and policies, i.e. the criminal laws under the Kenyan government’s ‘war on drugs’ approach versus the Constitution, Kenyan and East African health policies, and signed international and African conventions that recognise and address the rights of PUD. During the field study, in Malinda and Mombasa, outreach workers, PUD and their relatives were interviewed about human rights violations of PUD. The researcher also attended stakeholder meetings organised by the partners, which were attended by community members, religious leaders, police, health workers, and others. All this provided valuable data and hence insight in how these policies and laws have an impact on the context PUD live in and in which organisations work in Kenya .

Results

The research has resulted in a document that will enable Kenyan organisations to conduct informed lobby & advocacy aimed at improving human and health rights of PUD. It complements similar documents developed for LGBTI, men who have sex with men, and sex workers in Kenya. Moreover, KELIN will use the information about PUD’s specific needs to improve the general training curriculum on HIV and the law, while LVCT will use the data to supplement the national training curriculum for general health workers.