Tuesday and Wednesday we visited an SPYM drop in center for drug addicts and a visit to a DOTS center. CFHI did not have any explicit descriptions so here my overviews of the two:
The drop in center is funded by the same NGO that funds the Juvenile De-addiction center that we visited last week. Some services that the center provides to addicts are Needle Syringe Exchange program, counseling, OST (oral substitution therapy) initiation and distribution, clinic with a doctor, and abscess management. The center also refers clients to other centers if, for example, the client has TB which in that case, they would be referred to the nearest DOTS center. Local outreach programs with peer educators are also available to addicts.
The DOTS (directly observed treatment) center administers TB combination therapies to patients free of cost. It is directly observed treatment in that the patient must come to the center to receive the medication and will be held accountable if doses are missed. The purpose of the DOTS center is to prevent the patient from developing multi-drug resistant TB, which happens when medication is not taken regularly. India accounts for about a fifth of the world’s new TB cases so the government is trying very hard to eradicate the disease, especially in crowded cities like Delhi. So far the program has been effective in reducing the incidence of TB.
I didn’t like this visit so much because it was just uncomfortable the whole time. I really disagreed with the way the program director was trying to get us to see someone shooting up or getting high. We probably walked around for an hour looking for known hotspots and whenever we found people, our presence would draw huge crowds around the addicts. I think what we were doing was very disrespectful. These people are addicts, but they are still people who should be treated with dignity and respect, not like some weird animal at a freak show.
However, to give the drop in center credit, they are doing a lot especially when funding is not so readily available for stigmatized people like addicts. And I think it’s great to have a needle exchange program, which discourages sharing needles and prevents the spread of HIV/AIDS. Some argue that a needle exchange program facilitates drug abuse, but I think anything that limits the risk of spreading blood borne diseases is better than nothing.