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Last Revised:
 12 Jannuary 2001

Afghan Female Injecting Drug User Gets Help

There are 1 million drug users in Afghanistan. 110,000 are female. There is an HIV epidemic among injecting drug users. Only 10% have access to treatment services.

Waheeda: "My name is Waheeda. My husband went to Iran and got addicted there. When he came back to Afghanistan, he continued to smoke. He smoked in our house. I used to cry and beg him to quit smoking... but he would say: "it is up to me what I'm going to do with my life." I suffered a lot and I had a terrible time. His smoking would give me a headache. And he would accuse me of lying, if I would tell him that his smoking bothers me. I had pain in my whole body and I couldn't sleep.

Once he gave me a piece of opium, saying it would make me feel better. After having opium, I felt better. Then, I asked him for more. I used opium while I was pregnant with my daughter. When my daughter was born she was not well. We didn't know the reason why. But when her father was home, smoking, she was feeling better. Then I gave her a little piece of opium... And she felt well again. I knew, at that point, she is like me - an opium addict. I wanted to ask for a divorce... our relatives stopped visiting us and... we lived though this misery for 12 years. Then one day a neighbor said to me: go to Nejat Centre. There they registered us and started to treat us."

Woman wearing burka: "We are thankful to Nejat Centre for the services it provides. This centre is good. Before I was unable to help myself and my children. Now I am recovered and I am able to help others."

Ashita Mittal, Deputy Representative, UNODC: "This is the only project that addresses the complex problem of female drug users and female partners of male drug users. Secondly, it is a project that is community based, which is basically enabling the whole process of making the services far more accessible, more affordable, it is a combination of engaging with the community and also with the services partners like Nejat who are fully committed."

Dr. Younas Bargami, National AIDS Control Program: "So far, in collaboration with UNODC, we've (MoPH) been able to help 250 women drug users in the centre. And the reason for this is that women prefer to be treated by women. Therefore, one of the biggest achievements of this project is HIV and treatment service being delivered to women by Afghan women."

Patient: "I come every day to this centre and am provided with medicines. If the weather is too cold, I visit the centre once a week."

Waheeda: "Our future is grim. I am worried about my children's future..."

Graphic: UNODC reaches through this project 3,436 female drug users, 400 female prisoners and over 1,000 of their children in Afghanistan. This project is supported by the Government of Norway and UNAIDS.