Popular South African street drug may contain HIV medication

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A new study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) calls attention to a new street drug being used in South Africa. Known as whoonga, the drug cocktail may combine HIV antiretroviral (ARV) medication with illicit drugs. Believed to be extremely addictive, whoonga appears to have a devastating impact on those who use it—including children—and has the potential to complicate efforts to combat the HIV epidemic.

The study was published online in AIDS and Behavior on August 17, 2013.

“Our research suggests that the use of whoonga is associated with a number of health and social problems, such as crime, and could undermine efforts to treat HIV in communities where approximately one in four adults are infected with HIV,” said lead author David Grelotti, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH.