About Kenya & context

The Independent Republic of Kenya is an East-African country that is bordered on the East by the Indian Ocean and Somalia, to the South by Tanzania, to the West by Uganda and to the North by South-Sudan and Ethiopia.

Kenya is well known for its safaris and wildlife parks - such as Masai Mara - which attract many tourists. The country also has a history of terrorist attacks, notably the 1998 bombing of the American embassy in Nairobi by Osama bin Laden, and recently the 2013 killings at Westgate Shopping Mall.

Its population is about 45 million. Its capital city Nairobi (3,5m inhabitants) is a major commercial and transport hub. Its second largest city, Mombasa, lies on the coast and has a predominantly Muslim citizenry of a little under 1 million.

Drugs in Kenya
Heroin has been a street drug at the Kenya coast since the 1980s, when tourism boomed and Europeans brought heroin into the country. In the 1990s, coastal cities such as Mombasa became major entry points for heroin into the country and important hubs for transit routes of cocaine, heroin, and other drugs shipped from South America and Southwest Asia to US and European markets.

HIV / AIDS in Kenya
The first case of HIV in Kenya was diagnosed in 1984. Since then, HIV and AIDS have become one of the major causes of mortality in the country, affecting all layers of society – from young children to adolescents and adults, women and men. The HIV epidemic is both deeply rooted in the general population, but also among key populations such as men who have sex with men, female sex workers and people who inject drugs (PWID).

HIV prevalence among the general population is 5.6%, with women constituting about 57% of people living with HIV, while men account for 43%. HIV prevalence among PWID is over three times as high at 18.3%, while some estimates offer even higher numbers.

Harm reduction in Kenya
It wasn’t until 2011 that the Government of Kenya initiated a programme to prevent HIV infections among the PWID in Nairobi and the Coast, which had limited results. Needle and syringe programmes (NSP) were started by the Kenyan Aids NGO Consortium (KANCO), followed shortly by Mainline.

In December 2014, Kenya became the third Sub-Saharan African country to introduce opioid substitution treatment – known in Kenya as Medically Assisted Therapy (MAT) – making methadone available to injection drug users in Mombasa, Malindi and Nairobi. There are plans to expand this service to other locations.

Despite the country’s apparent commitment to providing inclusive, human rights based services to PWID, during an August 2015 Mombasa public address president Uhuru Kenyatta declared a war on two issues that “threaten the future of Kenyan youth”: terrorism and drugs. This decree set back relations, chased users out in the streets and further complicated the implementation of HR activities.

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Country Manager for Kenya: Muna Handulle


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