Substance abuse prevention amongst youth in Temeke, Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is the city in Tanzania most affected by substance use disorder, with a majority of drug users being youth between the ages of 15 and 25. Temeke is the poorest district of Dar es Salaam and drug use is visible and widespread in the community. Bangi is the most commonly used drug, followed by Khat and heroin. Studies show that people who inject drugs (PWID) routinely engage in high-risk injecting and sexual risk behaviour with consequences for infectious disease transmission, including HIV, hepatitis C and Tuberculosis. It is estimated that the prevalence of HIV in PWID is around 40%, compared to approximately 4-5% in the general population. Source: Mukikute and DCEA reports
Our data research among 420 secondary school students showed that a majority have poor knowledge on the dangers of substance abuse with only 7% of the students making a connection between substance abuse and increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Focus group discussions with 41 recovering drug addicts showed that 85% started using drugs between the ages of 13 and 15, and they had no information on the harmful effects of drugs before they started. On the contrary, it is common belief that drugs give increased physical strength, sexual pleasure, and mental capacities. Most of the women (78%) interviewed in sober houses had engaged in prostitution to finance their addiction, putting them at high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. The hardest part of recovery is the stigma society attaches to addiction and this is a major cause for relapse. The majority of secondary school students described drug addicts as thieves, demonstrating the strength of negative stereotypes.
Our data supports the existence of the following problem: poor knowledge of the dangers of drugs and related infectious diseases amongst youth.
The solution is called Itakuwa Poa. It is a digital prevention programme, accessible on YouTube, which uses dance, theatre, puppets and inspirational stories to educate youth on the dangers of substance abuse and the increased risk of contracting of HIV/AIDS.
Literature review, surveys and focus group discussions were conducted with key stakeholders who include the Government Drug Control Enforcement Agency (DCEA), Mukikute harm reduction centre, Police, hospital methadone clinics, sober houses and secondary schools, resulting in qualitative and quantitative data being collected.
This data was then used to inform the focal point of the prevention programme i.e youth from age 13, and to design the art products so that they address the problems
observed and appeal to youth. In this regard, the project used dance, theatre, puppets and inspirational stories, which capture the real-life story of former drug addicts showing recovery and positive reinsertion into society thus helping to reduce the stigma attached to drug addicts. All these art forms were combined into 3 videos, each with a different theme of addiction, infectious diseases and stigma.
The project received the mandatory approval of DCEA, the government’s Drug Control Enforcement Agency. The DCEA are opening substance abuse awareness clubs in secondary schools around Tanzania and they will support the distribution of the Itakuwa Poa video products.
Outcomes & Impact
- The 3 videos were viewed by 2,100 secondary school students in 5 different schools in Temeke, Dar es Salaam. Students had the opportunity to engage in discussions with medical experts and recovering addicts from sober houses.
- Students gained considerable knowledge about substance abuse and the risks of contracting infectious diseases.
- Before the session, a majority of students had poor knowledge on the destructive effects of each drug, especially heroin. The street names of drugs were unknown to them. Most students had never met a recovering drug addict.
- One school opened a club specifically for substance abuse issues. The videos were kept in their library to share with other students.
- The Headmasters of all 5 schools requested more intervention sessions.
- Youth are informed about the dangers of substance abuse and risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
- Decrease in substance abuse and prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
- Reduction of society stigma towards addiction
- Peer education: youth become the Ambassadors of the prevention programme through their school clubs.
- DLab: Tanzania Data Lab
- DCEA: The Government’s Drug Control and Enforcement Agency
- Mukikute: The largest NGO supporting substance abuse recovery
- Pederef Sober house: A private institution supporting recovery of substance abusers with a strong focus on supporting women.