Youth between 15 – 35 years account for 51% of new HIV infections in Kenya. In particular, youth with intersecting vulnerabilities and who live under challenging socio-economic circumstances are at risk.
In their daily work, Muslim Education and Welfare Association (MEWA) encounters young people who poly-use substances like khat/muguka, benzos (and other prescription drugs), crack and possibly meth. Their use takes place in a context where young people have poor chances of getting an education or finding employment and where rates of violence – including gang violence – are extremely high.
Crime is one of the few (perceived) means of generating income for young people in Mombasa. The impact of these circumstances is exacerbated by drug use. Many young people who use drugs suffer from serious mental health problems and encounter heavy stigma. All of this increases their risk of contracting HIV and other STIs. MEWA’s program data (2022) shows that mental health disorders already increase the risk of HIV by four to tenfold. HIV treatment outcomes for this group are poor. MEWA’s regular harm reduction program does not fit the many needs of these YPUD and there is limited knowledge of their exact backgrounds, drugs of choice and using patterns and risk behaviors, including about risky drug use in a sexualized setting.
This project – that runs between 2023 and 2025 – plans to boost young people in Kenya’s Coastal region, to motivate them and gain knowledge on self-employment and entrepreneurship. MEWA, Mainline and Elton John Foundation will support mental well-being for youth at risk or affected with drug use in the context of HIV prevention, treatment and care.
With our project, we hope to improve the mental, sexual, and general health of young people who use drugs, including those who use stimulant drugs and those who use drugs in a sexualized setting. We ultimately aim to reduce HIV, mental problems, and (self-) stigma among youth.
The programme works on various levels: data collection via community assessments, direct service delivery to young people who use drugs, establishing a learning hub and training materials to disseminate what we learn and an advocacy plan to make sustainable changes.
You can request more information about this project via Ancella Voets.
Support and finance
This project is implemented in partnership with MEWA and funded via Elton John AIDS Foundation.