HIV street drug ‘Whoonga’ is South Africa’s latest high

Friday, January 28, 2011

LONDON - South Africa’s battle against Aids is being threatened with a street drug called ‘Whoonga’, which is a cocktail that includes the antiretroviral (ARV) medication prescribed to people with HIV.

Users crush the ARVs and smoke them with a mixture of rat poison, detergent and marijuana to get high, and the powder is said to be so addictive that users get hooked within days.

The nation has been facing thefts of Aids drugs after the demand for the substance intensified.

“If I don’t smoke it, I get pains and I can’t sleep until I get some more,” Sky News quoted Jomo, 31, whose eyes became red and glazed after a few deep drags on a “joint”, as saying.

He and his fellow whoonga addicts smoke up to 30 “packets” of the drug every day at a cost of almost 100 pounds.

“I just rob people to get the money. I don’t have a job, this is all I do,” Jomo added as he rolled another joint.

Whoonga dealers in the back streets of Durban sell the powder for about 3 pounds per packet, and the highly toxic drug has been blamed for the deaths of scores of addicts across South Africa during the past year.

In the township of Umlazi, near Durban, officials say dozens of Aids patients are being robbed of their antiretroviral drugs every week.

Doctors have said that the prescription medication does not contain anything that could deliver a “high”, even when smoked.

The country’s Treatment Action Campaign, an Aids lobbying group, has described the belief that the drugs have recreational value as a “myth”.

“We are not even convinced that whoonga contains ARVs. The dealers just say it does,” group spokeswoman Caroline Nenguke added. (ANI)

Filed under: HIV, World

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