ARV theft is sabotage: Motsoaledi

By Drum Digital
01 November 2013

Stealing ARV medication and selling it back to them is tantamount to sabotage, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

Stealing ARV medication -- available to patients at no cost - and selling it back to them is tantamount to sabotage, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

"Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are life-saving drugs and if they are not given to an HIV-positive patient they lead to reduced level of compliance that leads to resistance," Motsoaledi said in a statement.

"We call upon members of the public to be extra vigilant and report anybody who sells these drugs, as ARVs are offered to HIV-positive patients for free."

Motsoaledi welcomed the arrest of two Gauteng health officials on Wednesday who allegedly sold ARV drugs on the streets of Johannesburg and surrounding areas.

Hawks' spokesman Captain Paul Ramoloka said the men were arrested in a sting operation in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, on Wednesday after investigations that started in May.

The Hawks received information about the officials selling the medication from a person taking ARVs.

"Patients were turned down at the Esselen Street Clinic saying there were no more ARV drugs. Then they were later contacted by two general workers who said they could sell them some drugs," he said.

Ramaloko said they were selling the medication -- which was available at no cost to patients -- for between R80 and R100 a box.

The Hawks' crime intelligence and flying squad arrested the men in Joubert Park on Wednesday after they sold the medication to undercover officers.

They faced charges of theft and possession of prescribed medication and would appear soon in the Hillbrow Magistrate's Court, said Ramaloko.

Motsoaledi said his department felt the charges were lenient because the theft of ARVs had far-reaching health implications.

Often the state was under fire for not having medication. The drugs were available but some officials were "sabotaging" the department's efforts, he said.

The Gauteng health department welcomed the arrests.

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