A researcher at the School of Biomedical Sciences at the Makerere University College of Health Science has embarked on a study to assess whether there are antiretroviral (ARV) drug residues in pigs slaughtered in selected abattoirs in the country.
Dr. Ritah Nakato told this publication that her study focuses on abattoirs in Kampala and Lira. She says she embarked on this study following claims in the media that farmers were mixing drugs swallowed by people living with HIV with pig feeds with an aim of making them grow bigger and faster so that they can cash in.
The presence of three HIV drugs – Efavirenz, Tenofovir and Nevirapine are being assessed to determine their concentration in blood samples of more than 360 animals picked from areas of Lira and Kampala where according to preliminary research the problem is more prevalent.
As part of the study, the researcher is set to conduct several focused group discussions with farmers, agricultural officers, and abattoir owners. Nakato says she is only studying samples that have a verification stamp for slaughter from a veterinary officer in charge since this is a standard public health requirement by authorities.
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According to Nakato, establishing the presence of ARVs residues in pigs would give an insight into the extent of drug misuse in the country and the bigger the challenge that it affects success of HIV treatment.
She says once the study is complete and its confirmed that residues are present in the animals it will help improve policy implementation and form a basis for authorities to conduct continuous surveillance and control of ARVs in the health systems together with increased sensitization of people living with the virus who might be selling the drugs to farmers putting their own lives at risk.
However even as the study results are not yet out, Prof. James Tumwine of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics says there is danger in eating meat or pork that has residues of HIV drugs.