Female drug addicts in Tanzania

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 27 May 2015 10:45 AM
Author: Mia Collis
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Up to 50,000 people living in Tanzania's largest city, Dar es Salaam, are drug users, according to the charity Medecins Du Monde.

They often fall into a downward spiral of addiction, illness and loss of work.

Many are heroin addicts who either inject ‘white crest’, a powdered form of heroin, or smoke ‘koktelis’, a mixture of cannabis, tobacco and heroin. One hit costs about $2.

Almost all the occupants of the city’s drug dens, often rooms in slums or hidden outdoor spots, are men. The stigma of drug addiction is worse for women in this traditional society.

Medecins Du Monde visits female addicts in their homes, where they usually take drugs, to give them advice on HIV, as well as soap, toothpaste and other essentials for their hygiene. Many of the women are sex workers, who live with their children and grandchildren and also receive clients in their homes. Two thirds of female drug users in Dar es Salaam are HIV positive.

Medecins Du Monde also set up a women’s only night on Wednesdays at its drop in centre. Women come for a meal, tea, shower, counselling and medical care, including tests for HIV and tuberculosis. They can get clean needles and be referred for methadone treatment. They also get advice from the charity’s legal officer about their rights when they come into contact with the police.

  • Male drug users distribute heroin and marijuana in a drug den in Dar es Salaam.

  • A 45-year-old drug user poses for a picture on the porch of her house. The woman is also a sex worker and is addicted to smoking ‘Kokteli’s’ a mixture of cannabis, tobacco and heroin.

  • A drug user and sex worker poses for a picture in her home.

  • A 26-year-old injecting drug user and sex worker poses for a picture.

  • A sex worker addicted to smoking ‘Kokteli’s’, a mixture of cannabis, tobacco and heroin, poses for a picture in a Dar es Salaam neighbourhood.

  • For women drug users who have grown to feel more empowered, MDM holds ‘women’s night’ every Wednesday at the drop-in centre. About 600 women use the drop-in centre in a year.

  • A woman puts on her make-up on at the MDM drop-in centre.

  • An injecting drug user brings her baby to the MDM drop-In centre on a Wednesday night.

  • Lina, who heads MDM Dar es Salaam's legal team, gives a workshop to women drug users on women’s rights and empowerment.

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