I spent the last week in Kampala, Uganda, visiting a number of communities of people who use drugs. Whilst cannabis use has existed in Uganda for a long time, since heroin and cocaine became trafficked through the region, a local market has more recently developed and use of these drugs has increased. Injecting is becoming more prevalent, which has also increased potential negative public health consequences such as spread of HIV.
The drug users I spoke with shared their stories of marginalisation. As an invisible community, they are unable to claim their rights, respect and freedom. With no harm reduction services, access to clean injecting equipment is difficult and expensive. Drug users are frequently rounded up by police, arrested, and taken out to the farms to dig for the government. There exists no research on the lives and experiences of the Ugandan drug using community, which allows the government to forget their existence. Through creating a small film on this experience, Youth RISE hopes to help begin a process of acknowledging the existence and recognising the needs of this community. Further research and advocacy is desperately needed.