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SA launches probe into HIV patients smoking ARV drug
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The South African Gauteng health department has launched an investigation into allegations that HIV-positive patients smoked an ARV drug at Hammanskraal Clinic, spokeswoman Zanele Mngadi said on Wednesday.

However, the department denied that any cases of HIV-positive patients smoking the life-prolonging drug, Stocrin, were reported in Gauteng.

"We will investigate though no cases were reported to us," said Mngadi.

Mngadi warned that patients who smoked the drug were at risk of psychiatric complications and treatment failure due to not taking the whole triple therapy.

In a bid to curb the spread of the abuse of the drug, the department used residential addresses and official identification to monitor patients on treatment.

"A patient cannot easily access treatment in a different province unless issued with a transfer letter by his/her resident province," said Mngadi.

She said this was a criminal matter and urged the public to report such acts to the police.

Meanwhile, Democratic Alliance spokesman James Lorimer said smoking Stocrin gave an effect similar to heroin.

"The tablets are sold for 25 rand (3 U.S. dollars) each. This practice has to be stopped as soon as possible," said Lorimer.

The DA commended Health MEC Brian Hlongwa for launching an investigation into the matter, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency September 18, 2008)

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