South Africa: No ARVs in whoonga: Zuma

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 15 Mar 2011
Title: No ARVs in whoonga: Zuma

By Kemantha Govender

Durban - The notorious township drug, whoonga, does not contain anti-retroviral drugs, says President Jacob Zuma.

"Perpetuating such inaccuracies is dangerous as it may make drug addicts steal ARVs, which would put the lives of people on treatment at risk," said Zuma at the opening of the second biennial summit on substance abuse.

Many people believe whoonga is made of crushed HIV treatment drugs, mixed with other chemicals, but according to experts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, whoonga does not contain ARVs, but is made up of heroin mixed with rat poison and other chemicals.

The use of whoonga and other such substances continues to destroy the lives of families. It is for this reason that delegates gathered at this three-day summit to find solutions to this crippling issue.

"Fighting substance abuse is a collaborative effort. Government cannot do it successfully alone, given the magnitude of this societal problem," said Zuma.

Alcohol is said to be the most abused substance in South Africa, followed by cannabis, commonly known as dagga.

Children as young as 10 years are experimenting with these substances.

Zuma said reports showed children between the ages of 9-15 start with cigarettes, alcohol, dagga and mandrax.

The true extent of the problem in the country cannot be clearly reflected though.

"Substance abuse or addiction to any substance is not a notifiable condition. Families and addicts are not obliged to report to the authorities. This makes it difficult to have an accurate picture of the extent of the problem. We also do not want to create a scare and portray our nation as the capital of drug and alcohol abuse, because we are not," said Zuma.

While KZN is trying to control the whoonga dilemma, government in the Western Cape is fighting against Tik and in Gauteng they are battling with the drug called Nyaope.

"It is shocking that human beings can inflict such damage on themselves and imbibe such a dangerous substance. It indicates the extent of the problem we are facing," said Zuma.

He asked the delegates to come up with resolutions that will help improve education and awareness among the youth, saying he hoped the summit would assist law enforcement officials to deal with drug traffickers and help the country to improve treatment for addicts and support for families.

"The deliberations should help us to promote and implement the country's National Drug Master Plan and the mini-drug master plans, which are our blueprints in the fight against substance abuse," said Zuma.

Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, said during her opening remarks at the summit that it was vital for all sectors of society to tackle this problem.

"Alcohol and substance abuse is a major contributor to crime, foetal alcohol syndrome, gender-based violence, poverty, dysfunctional family life and many other social ills. Tackling this problem requires co-operative action between government and the support and involvement of all sectors of our society," said Dlamini.

The minister added: "We need to create a supportive environment where children and young people have opportunities to be involved in healthy activities and where substance abuse is not promoted by peers, family and other influential actors in the community. Alcohol and substance abuse is everybody's problem, and its solution is everyone's responsibility."

But Zuma is adamant that alcohol and drug addiction can be cured. "Government is planning to expand treatment centres and to ensure accessibility even in rural areas," said Zuma.

The opening session of the summit had government heavyweights with national ministers, the Central Drug Authority officials, and KZN MECs in attendance.

Published on: 2011-03-15

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