Zambian youths mixing HIV anti-retroviral drugs with marijuana, CSO’s raise alarm

The CSO’s said there were over a million people currently on antiretroviral treatment in Zambia and reports of the drugs being abused will likely reverse the gains made.
A man explains how HIV and Aids are transmitted in the Garden†Compound district, one of the oldest densely populated residential areas for ordinary people, in Lusaka, Zambia, 20 November 2015. Large parts of the population live in deprived areas of the city without solid roads and a sewer system. Photo: BERND†VON†JUTRCZENKA/dpa

Civil society groups in Zambia on Tuesday expressed outrage following reports that anti-retroviral drugs (ARV’s) meant for people living with HIV were now being abused by youths who mix them with other illicit drugs such as marijuana to get high on the substance.

Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), an organization advocating for equitable access to treatment, care and support for people living with HIV told journalists on Tuesday that it was disturbing that the ARVs were being misused. They accused the Zambia Medicine Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) of failing to control how ARV drugs are distributed in the country.

TALC National Director, Felix Mwanza asked the Ministry of Health to further investigate this issue, adding that the issue risked reversing the gains that have been made by the government and its partners in putting people on antiretroviral treatment, a Xinxua news agency report said.

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Mwanza said there were over a million people currently on antiretroviral treatment in Zambia and reports of the drugs being abused will likely reverse the gains made.

His concerns have been shared by the Medical for Quality Healthcare in Zambia which said it was disheartening to hear of reports of ARV drugs being found in the hands of wrong people.

Quince Mwabu, director of the organization also said that it was evident that the regulator was failing to regulate and control how medicines were being made available to the general public.

“With various control measures to curb the abuse of ARVs, it is regrettable that there are allegations of HIV negative people accessing some types of ARVs, which they are reportedly abusing,” he said.

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But Ludovic Mwape, spokesperson of the regulator said it was unfair for health groups to accuse the regulator of failing to regulate the pharmaceutical industry.

Mwape said according to the law it was not the mandate of the regulator to control how patients use their medicines once they are dispensed to them.

He however said it was unfortunate that despite various control measures put in place, some ARV drugs were finding themselves in the hands of wrong people.

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