Managing drug use during Ramadan

Many people with a Muslim background who use drugs still find it very important to respect the holy month of Ramadan. Mainlines local partners in South Africa and Kenya tried to support service users to fast.

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating any food, drinking any liquids, smoking cigarettes and engaging in any sexual activity from dawn to sunset. That includes taking medications such as methadone. In general, Muslims experience their religious obligations as rewarding but also as challenging. For people who use drugs, especially those who are homeless, the challenges of fasting add to – and to some extent enforce – their daily struggles.

Mainline found that even people who live on the streets find ways to practise their religion within their personal possibilities. 

Tara Gerardy, Psychosocial Support Coordinator, TB HIV Care:

“Our clients were proactive in arranging for the earlier dosing of their methadone. Whilst this was accommodated, and clients made every effort to observe the fast, many seemed to struggle. Contributing factors include homelessness and clients not having access to a meal outside of the centre. For some, this was their only opportunity to eat”.

In Mombasa, Kenya, the majority of the residing population observe and celebrate Ramadan, including MEWA's staff and clients. The operating hours of MEWA’s services were extended to support fasting clients to get their daily doses of methadone, ARVs or other essential medicines in a timely manner. 

Daddy Bobby, HIV+ and Methadone client, MEWA:

“In the past, clients who were on ARVs found it hard to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, myself included. Having the MEWA team on the ground and the clinical MAT staff who are supportive in ARV adherence, this has given us a chance to fast and take the ARVs after breaking the fast”.

During Ramadan, MEWA also provided modest iftar meals at the DIC and handed out food packages at the methadone clinic. Knowing that many service users would not be able to spend Eid with their family, both TB/HIV Care in South Africa and MEWA in Kenya celebrated the end of Ramadan with their clients.  

Read more about Mainline in Kenya.

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