Aids group to deploy ARV security guards to stave off robbers

2011-04-16 17:32

A prominent HIV and Aids­ non-governmental organisation is setting up a security service to protect its members from thugs who rob them of their antiretroviral (ARV) medication to feed their drug addiction.

The National Association of People Living with HIV and Aids (Napwa) has resolved to take drastic action in ­KwaZulu-Natal despite police claiming ARV robberies in the province have declined.

Most victims are robbed on their way from clinics by addicts who are believed to use the ARVs to make the drug called whoonga, a cocktail of substances ranging from ARVs and rat poison to cocaine and heroin.

But police say patients have also been known to sell the ARVs to addicts.

Whoonga is especially popular in the townships of Clermont, KwaNdengezi, KwaDabeka, Umlazi and KwaMashu.
Napwa describes the hijacking and selling of ARVs as murder, and director Nkululeko Nxesi says the organisation is fed up with reports of ARV theft from its members across the province.

He says the executive committee resolved to set up the security service for its members in the province at its annual general meeting, but does not yet have a detailed plan for it.

It will most likely arrange for security personnel to deliver the ARVs from clinics to HIV and Aids patients.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Vincent Mdunge says the number of people who have been robbed by whoonga addicts has declined, but he can’t provide statistics.

He admits that in the past there were a significant number of these incidents in Durban.

“We’re positive that we have managed to fight this whoonga outbreak. Although we can’t give statistics, the number of people robbed have dropped,” says Mdunge.

Police believe that campaigns involving celebrities have played a role in decreasing the number of people volunteering to sell their ARVs to whoonga addicts.

Despite police linking the use of whoonga to ARV theft, experts are still not convinced that ARVs are widely used in the concoction.

At the biennial summit on substance abuse held in Durban last month, President Jacob Zuma said University of KwaZulu-Natal experts had found that whoonga did not contain ARVs.

Instead, he said, it was made up of heroin mixed with rat poison and other chemicals.

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