Print this page    •   Back to Web version of article

International News
Recreational Use of HIV Drugs Leading to Pre-Treatment Resistance in South Africa

December 19, 2012

NPR's "Shots" blog examines how "[o]pportunists who market street drugs may be undermining the global struggle against AIDS," writing, "In South Africa, two mainstay HIV drugs have found their way into recreational use." According to the blog, "[p]eople with HIV who smoke so-called whoonga -- an illicit concoction of an AIDS medication and a street drug, like marijuana or heroin -- can develop mutant strains of the virus resistant to the medication," or "people can become infected with a strain of HIV that came from someone who used whoonga."

"'One large study showed 3 to 5 percent of people with HIV were coming in with pre-treatment resistance' to antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV, [said] Dr. David Grelotti ..., a Harvard School of Public Health researcher who co-authored a commentary on the phenomenon in the Lancet Infectious Diseases published Tuesday," the blog notes. "Recreational use of HIV drugs isn't altogether new, though it hasn't had much attention," "Shots" writes, noting, "Some media reports documented illicit use of HIV drugs in South Africa as long ago as 2009." The blog adds, "Aside from the resistance problem, illicit use of HIV drugs poses other dangers," as "recreational use can make legitimate users of these drugs, and the clinics that dispense them, targets of thieves and violent crime" (Knox, 12/18).

Back to other news for December 2012

This information was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery. © Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

General Disclaimer: is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.