Medically Assisted Therapy Clinic in Kisumu, Kenya Offers Hope to High-risk HIV Group

Kenya Dr Kevin De Cock

On April 6, 2017, CDC Kenya along with key partners celebrated the opening of the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) Wellness Center. The JOOTRH Wellness Center is one of six clinics in Kenya that have been authorized to provide medically assisted therapy (MAT) to people who inject drugs (PWID). MAT clinics use methadone, in combination with other support strategies, to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms associated with drug cessation and increasing PWIDs’ likelihood of a successful recovery. The JOOTRH Wellness Center not only aims to improve the health of its clients, but it’s also restoring hope, promise, and a renewed sense of self-respect for those who have struggled with drug addiction.

Kenya Jootrh Wellness Center

Injection drug use has been shown to contribute significantly to HIV transmission globally, and in Kenya. HIV prevalence among people who use drugs in Kenya is 18.3% and there are an estimated 1,000 PWIDs in the Nyanza region of Kenya, an area where prevention efforts have ramped up due to the high HIV prevalence rate. CDC Kenya through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has been committed to meeting the needs of this key population and has worked closely with the Government of Kenya, the Government of Kisumu county, Impact Research and Development Organization, ICAP Kenya, LVCT, the administration of JOOTRH, and other partners to establish this critical resource that offers drug dependence treatment, psychosocial support, and counseling.

Kenya Pharmaceutical Technician

With the opening of the JOOTRH Wellness Center, individuals from the six counties that make up the Nyanza region (Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Siaya, Kisumu, and Nyamira) now have access to life-saving services. Victor is one of those individuals and travels 30 kilometers every day to the Wellness Center to obtain MAT services, which he credits for many of the positive changes in his life. Specifically, Victor states that he’s now able to “think about the future, as before I was just thinking about today.” For more than fifteen years Victor struggled with heroin addiction, but being motivated to have a better future for himself and his children, he has enrolled in the MAT program and has remained committed to treatment for more than two months. Victor is grateful for simply being able to sleep, have an appetite, gain weight, and, most importantly, rebuild trust with his mother, wife, and children.

The opening of the JOOTRH Wellness Center demonstrates the continued vision by CDC Kenya and its implementing partners to maintain the course towards eliminating HIV and signals a continued commitment to improving health and saving lives. As the use of drugs rises in many parts of Kenya as well as the rest of the world, important efforts and life-changing impact are taking place in areas like the rural Nyanza region of Kenya. Through the offering of MAT clinics, CDC Kenya and its partners are encouraged and reminded of what success looks like when individuals like Victor proclaim that “at long last, I’ll overcome this thing.”