PBS NewsHour Examines Unlikely Partnership In Tanzania Helping To Reduce Disease Among Drug Users

PBS NewsHour features a multimedia report on HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevention among drug users in Tanzania, highlighting the partnership between two women, “one selling heroin and cocaine to her neighbors, the other trying to save them from addiction” by providing clean needles and counseling. “Specifically targeting drug users with this kind of information is a growing priority for the global health community,” the NewsHour writes, adding, “Along with sex workers, prisoners and men who have sex with men, drug users, especially those who inject drugs, represent a disproportionate share of the population living with HIV and a ‘high risk’ group for contracting tuberculosis.” The news service continues, “Recent analysis from the Global Commission on Drug Policy found that the same countries employing the most aggressive drug war strategies — including arresting and incarcerating drug users for drug or needle possession — saw increases of more than 25 percent in new HIV infections” because “such practices drive drug users so far underground that they’re almost guaranteed to share and reuse dirty needles,” according to health workers.

However, “[o]thers worry that needle exchanges and general harm reduction interventions could lead to a societal perception that the government encourages drug use, or even pave the way for legalization,” the NewsHour writes. “But that’s missing the point, said Mauro Guarinieri, a senior adviser with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” the news service notes. Guarinieri said, “We are not for legalizing drug use. … We’re talking about having a rational approach to drug use which is not incarcerating people or pushing people underground — because that doesn’t make sense from a public health perspective,” according to the news service. The NewsHour also profiles Rehema Mpili, an HIV-positive former sex worker and drug user who now works with addicts as a nurse and counselor (Kane, 8/14).