It was getting more difficult for her to inject heroin, since the veins in her arms and legs had been used so often. Fortunately for her, this was when the Tanzanian government began consulting with international donors to offer heroin users a path out of addiction.International donors became interested in Tanzania because heroin use correlates highly with HIV/AIDS prevalence.She found regular clients, and when sex work didn’t fulfill her financial needs, she broke into people’s homes and stole their iron pots.Several years later, Hamadi participated in a class for people who inject heroin at MDM.
While partying with her friend one night, Hamadi met a man who, in 1998, offered her an oddly strong joint. “We know that social networks of women matter a lot, from adolescence onwards,” she said.
Few governments, donors or nonprofits in Africa work with heroin users.
Médecins du Monde (MDM), an international nonprofit that serves heroin users in Tanzania, estimates that fewer than 1 percent of drug users on the continent have access to support services, let alone treatment plans like methadone. In 2009 the national government publicly declared that its drug users needed evidence-based treatment options. in recent years, and it has gained popularity elsewhere around the world.
“Honestly the first time I didn’t feel good,” Hamadi recalled. “If she has a male partner, he can be very influential in getting her to start [using].” Though most Tanzanian women either sniff or smoke heroin, within two years Hamadi started experimenting with needles.
She was seeking the purer highs she remembered from when she began using.