South Africans With AIDS Fear New Drug Crimes
March 21, 2011
Some HIV-positive South Africans are falling victim to thieves who steal their antiretrovirals, supposedly for use in the street drug called whoonga. Yet as such thefts increase, there is little evidence to suggest the ARVs are actually used in the drug.
Jeewa does not deny that some drug users may be abusing ARVs, but he sees whoonga as more of a marketing phenomenon spawned by dealers long known to cut their heroin with other substances. "A few years ago, the same drug was called 'sugar,'" Jeewa said. "Brand names create an interest for demand."
Santosh Basdeo, a pharmacist in Durban's KwaMashu township, said whoonga may be "anything from a combination of ARVs to rat poison, things that you can buy over the counter at the pharmacy, things that you even have at home," so long as it keeps "the cost of the drug as low as possible."
Yet the perception that ARVs are an important part of whoonga continues to drive the thefts. "In the township, you see kids stealing the medication of their parents and selling it to the people who make whoonga," said Nonhlanhla of KwaMashu, whose own ARVs were stolen.
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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