Children smoking ARVs - report

By Time of article published May 20, 2008

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By Natasha Prince

Children as young as 10 at a primary school in Cape Town have admitted to smoking anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, headache tablets and other over-the-counter medicines to get high, a study shows.

This comes after a report to a parliamentary portfolio committee meeting of the department of social development two weeks ago which said special attention needed to be focused on this new trend.

Now an impact study by an after-school care project has shown that pupils from Andile Public Primary School in New Crossroads have admitted to buying and smoking drugs used in the treatment of HIV and Aids patients, as well as other pharmaceuticals.

Ncediswa Bolotina, a member of Partners with After Care School Projects (Pascap), produced the report which said that in addition to smoking ARVs, children were smoking over-the-counter painkillers.

In an attempt to counter this, Pascap has started a drug awareness programme for pupils at schools in disadvantaged areas.

About 884 boys and 754 girls have participated in the programme which extends across New Crossroads, Langa, Khayelitsha, Paarl and George.

The report said that during assessment sessions, 55 percent of the boys and 20 percent of the girls reported that they had tried cigarettes and alcohol with friends.

A programme facilitator, Nthabiseng Lebitsa of the Centre for Drug Action in Khayelitsha, said about five pupils had admitted to smoking ARVs. She said she believed the people who sold the ARVs usually did so to buy liquor.

The pupils reported having smoked the drugs, which they laced either with dagga or tik.

She said facilitators could only provide guidance to children and advise them not to smoke ARVs.

"We don't know yet what it does to the brain. The children said they've 'seen' things, and usually hallucinate," she said.

Professor Linda-Gail Bekker of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre in Gugulethu said she had heard that ARVs were being used as a recreational drug.

Last Friday New Crossroads ward councillor Elese Depoutch said he believed stolen ARVs had been sold to buy tik.

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