Estimating population-based characteristics of people who inject drugs in Kenya.


A study of people who inject drugs in Kenya has found a high prevalence of HIV infection and high levels of risk behavior. This study, the first to report population-based prevalence of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and risk behaviors among people who inject drugs in Kenya, was led by the Population Council and conducted with researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Kenya (CDC), the Kenya National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP), the Kenya National AIDS Control Council (NACC), and the University of California (San Francisco).

People who inject drugs are at very high risk for HIV. Of the estimated 15.9 million injection drug users globally in 2010, approximately one in five was HIV-positive. While the majority of persons who inject drugs live in Southeast and East Asia, the number of such persons in sub-Saharan Africa is growing rapidly. This is of particular concern because of African countries' limited capacity to address HIV infection.

Study methods

From January to March 2011, Population Council researchers used respondent-driven sampling to recruit study participants. They selected a small group of individuals who met a specific set of characteristics--men or women aged 18 and older who reported injecting drugs in the previous 3 months, lived in or around Nairobi, and were willing to provide written informed consent. These people then recruited their peers, who in turn recruited additional peers, and so on. More than 350 individuals were recruited to the study; 269 participants were eligible.

Participants were interviewed by trained nurse counselors about their HIV knowledge, sexual risk and prevention behaviors, drug use, HIV testing history, and experience with violence and discrimination. HIV counseling and testing was offered to participants who elected to be tested, and participants were also tested for sexually transmitted infections.

Characteristics of Kenya's injection drug using population

The study found that the median age of people who inject drugs in Kenya is 31 years, a majority of whom are unmarried men who earn money through informal or irregular employment. While almost half of the people who inject drugs began only recently, over 20 percent had been doing so for over five years. Most of this population also engages in high-risk injection practices at least monthly, including sharing syringes and other equipment. Over half the population was not sexually active in the last...

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