Civil society organisations want to see government taking a firmer stand to stop antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) from being smuggled into the black market. 

“There are a number of people right now coming to us who have told us that they are scared to go to public healthcare facilities to get ARVs because they might be hijacked or robbed says NAPWA’s Secretary-General, Nkululeko Nxesi.

Whoonga is a drug that has become a growing concern in the country. It is a detergent powder mixed with rat poison and crushed-up ARVs, then smoked. Nxesi says Napwa’s concern is that people are getting away with stealing crucial treatment of AIDS patients to make a quick buck.

“Government will respond very late. That is our worry.  They must go where people are. Since they believe it is not true that ARVs are used for whoonga, then why was that woman in Hillbrow mugged? What about those policemen who stole ARVs … why did they do that? Who is their supplier and who is their market?” asks Nxesi.

“We are very worried because we know our history and how far we’ve come for people to access ARVs. People who are HIV-positive are very angry and scared because this treatment is our life. Once you start it, you take it till death.  We are worried because if people are stealing our treatment, how can we live without them as it is a life time commitment?” said Portia Serote, deputy chairperson of the TAC in Ekhuruleni.

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