Photo of confiscated antiretroviral tablets.
PHOTO: Supplied/SAPS
Photo of confiscated antiretroviral tablets. PHOTO: Supplied/SAPS

Police launch 'high priority' investigation into stolen ARV meds found in South Durban homes

By SNE MASUKU Time of article published Feb 14, 2020

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Durban - THE Department of Health says it is interested in the high-priority police investigations under way to establish what the boxes of antiretroviral tablets found at houses in Lamontville and uMlazi in Durban would have been used for. 

This comes after two suspects were linked to a Maydon Wharf case where a vehicle with boxes of ARVs was broken into.

The police raided premises in uMlazi and Lamontville on Tuesday, where the suspects were keeping stolen goods. A search was conducted and officers recovered stolen items including clothing, flatscreen TVs and sound systems, a PSP box and two boxes of ARV treatment.

The suspects, aged 27 and 36, appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said the issue of ARVs being stolen was a concern for the department, but would not be drawn to say why criminals were targeting the life-saving treatment.

ARVs were made available free to millions of South Africans living with HIV/Aids virus, and Tuesday’s arrests were the second this year.

Last month, Free State police arrested two suspects for being in possession of 1068 bottles of ARVs worth R1.2million. One was an employee at Robert Mjobo clinic in the Eastern Cape.

According to Colonel Thembeka Mbele yesterday, the two Durban suspects were well-known for being “stylish and living the life”, but nobody knew where they got the money to afford their lifestyle.

“The questions that had been bothering people in the community were finally answered when the police arrested the suspects on suspicion of robbery, burglary and possession of stolen property,” said Mbele.

She said the value of the ARVs recovered had not yet been established.

“Investigations are under way. We don’t want to speculate until we have concluded the investigation,” she said.

Maja said he hoped the police investigations would shed light on why criminals were targeting ARVs.

“We are concerned that patients are being robbed of public health resources. We applaud the arrests and the police. At this stage we don’t know what these ARVs are used for after being stolen. At this stage we don’t want to speculate. We are confident that the police will brief us in good time on their findings.

“ARVs should be used for the purposes of suppressing the viral load in HIV-infected patients. At the moment there is no shortage of ARVs because of this incident, but we would like to assure patients that we will get to the bottom of this,” he said.

Dr Lochan Naidoo, clinical director at Jullo Specialist Rehab Centre in Merebank, said he was not aware of any drug concoctions which used ARVs as an ingredient.

Daily News

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