Farmers in Lira feed pigs on ARVs

Farmers in Lira feed pigs on ARVs

A magistrate in the northern district of Lira has remanded a security guard accused of selling antiretroviral, ARV drugs, to pig farmers.

The accused, James Ronnie Otyek, appeared before Lira Grade one magistrate, Hillary Kiwanuka, on July 12 shortly after his arrest on the orders of Lira resident district commissioner, Robert Abak.

Kiwanuka didn’t allow the accused to enter any plea but remanded him to Lira Central prison for two weeks. Otyek has been a security guard at Lira regional referral hospital. To lure Otyek out into the open, the RDC used a pig farmer.

At the urging of the RDC, the farmer called Otyek and asked to buy ARVs. Otyek delivered the drugs at the farmer’s home in Ojwina where he was arrested by police detectives. Interrogated, Otyek said he colluded with hospital staff to smuggle out and sell the ARVs.

In June last year, Lira district health authorities launched an investigation into reports that farmers fed antiretroviral drugs to their pigs. The farmers reportedly mix ARVs with animal feeds to make their pigs grow faster and protect them from swine fever, a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease that affects pigs and warthogs.

The scandal was exposed by village health teams in 2013. Emmy Joe Odongo, a farmer with over 100 pigs in Central division, said a number of farmers mix ARVs with maize cobs, vegetables and cassava, among other items, to feed their pigs.

In an earlier interview, Dr Leslie Ojom, the manager of the Aids Information Centre, Lira branch, said the centre received reports that people living with HIV/Aids were selling the life-prolonging drugs to pig farmers at only Shs 500 per tablet.

He warned, however, that the practice could breed antibiotic-resistant germs in animals, which could be harmful to pork consumers. Pig farming is widespread because pork is widely consumed in Lira district.

There are an estimated 400 pork joints in Lira town spread in Teso Bar-Corner Kamdini, Junior Quarters and Odokomit in Adyel division, Jinja camp, Ohuru Bar and Rainbow, all in Ojwina division.

A stick of roasted pork goes for Shs 6,000 while a plate of deep-fried pork costs between Shs 8,000 and Shs 14,000.