Impact of COVID-19 on substance use disorder treatment services in Kenya: Qualitative findings from healthcare providers

Abbe Muller, Matthew J. Akiyama, Lindsey Riback, Mercy Nyakowa, Helgar Musyoki, Peter Cherutich, Ann Kurth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: People who inject drugs are at an increased risk for contracting SARS-CoV-2 and have experienced barriers to accessing harm reduction services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding how to best provide these services is essential for COVID-19 mitigation. The goal of this study was to ascertain challenges and successes for caring for people who inject drugs in Kenya during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: We conducted focus group discussions and one-on-one key informant interviews with healthcare providers who work with people who inject drugs in Kenya. Interviews explored how COVID-19 and social distancing measures impacted service provision, as well as what strategies were used to overcome these barriers. We used thematic analysis to analyze transcribed interviews. Results: Participants included 29 service providers from 11 healthcare professions at three medication assisted treatment (MAT) and four drop-in center (DIC) sites (N=15 males and N=14 females, with an average age of 35 years). Four overarching themes emerged in our thematic analysis in which providers described both barriers to providing care and solutions to overcome them: (1) COVID-19-related misconceptions; (2) Limited COVID-19 testing and screening; (3) Structural changes related to service provision; and (4) Access to material resources such as meals, needle and syringe program kits, and personal protective equipment. Conclusions: Our findings demonstrate the COVID-19 pandemic-imposed challenges for substance use disorder treatment providers and patients, however with ingenuity many of these challenges were able to be overcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103710
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Injection drug use
  • LMIC
  • People who inject drugs
  • Policy
  • Substance use disorder services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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