West African Clinic Offers Free Methadone, Clean Needles & More

By Victoria Kim 11/29/18

The goal of Senegal's free program is not only to rehabilitate, but also to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS among drug users.

West African doctor offers free harm reduction tools to those in need

A clinic in West Africa is doing its part to mitigate the region’s opioid crisis.

People line up at the Center for the Integrated Management of Addictions (known locally as CEPIAD) in Senegal to receive a daily dose of methadone and counseling. Some travel hours for treatment.

“You get here, you have your methadone and you are not thinking about taking drugs. You are thinking about moving your life forwards,” says Moustapha Mbodj, who is in recovery from more than 30 years of heroin use.

A new CNN report highlights CEPIAD’s efforts. Established by the Senegalese government in 2014, the clinic is the first in West Africa to provide free opioid substitution treatment. CEPIAD offers methadone, clean syringes and condoms, as well as skills workshops and help with reintegrating into family networks, according to CNN. It has helped more than 700 people since it opened.

The goal of the free program is not only to rehabilitate drug users, but to reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS among drug users. Over 10% of injecting drug users in Senegal live with HIV, according to United Nations estimates. Among the general population, this number is less than 1%.

An estimated 1,300 injecting drug users were counted in Dakar (Senegal’s capital) in 2011, according to a voluntary survey by the French National Agency for Research on AIDS.

In response to the survey, Senegal’s government turned to a harm reduction approach. In a two-year period, public health workers distributed 18,614 clean syringes and 17,564 condoms to the public at no cost.

The need for such services is rising.

Senegal is among a handful of African nations that offer this type of free service. According to a 2017 report, out of 37 African nations reporting drug use data to the UN, just eight offer harm reduction approaches, including Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya and Mauritius.

Pierre Lapaque, a representative with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for West and Central Africa, explained that the market for drugs is growing in a region that previously served only as a transit point for drug traffickers.

Lapaque says traffickers used a “smart approach” to introduce drugs to a “region where there was absolutely no market ten years ago.”

“Often what the traffickers are doing is they are paying their support staff not only in cash but in drugs,” said Lapaque.

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