25 October 2010


An excerpt from an article at Aljazeera:
Whoonga, as it's known, is a substance being smoked in poor township communities around Durban, and it's popping up in other parts of the country as well...

What makes whoonga different - a fine white powder, added to marijuana and smoked - is its composition.  It's a blend of detergent powder, rat poison and, crucially, crushed up ARVs, or antiretroviral drugs distributed free to HIV sufferers...

Whoonga is cheap, bought from a dealer for just 20 rand or $3 a hit. But 40 per cent of all South Africans survive on little more than $2 a day...  Worst of all, it means people in need of ARVs to save or prolong their lives are sometimes going without.  They're being mugged for their pills as they leave the clinic.

Some are willing to sell them - the free ARVs now have a value more pressing to the poorest than even their lifesaving properties...

And if that's not shocking enough, perhaps the very worst aspect of whoonga is that many addicts, I'm told, actually seek to become HIV positive, because then they'll get their supply for free. No need to bother committing a crime...

One group is making a difference, albeit a tiny one.  Vumani Gwala runs Project Whoonga, a community support group operating in one small corner of a giant township outside Durban called Kwadebeka, where whoonga thrives and grows every day.  There are no figures available yet for the scale of whoonga use, but Gwala estimates it's easily in the several thousands in Kwadebeka alone.  Project Whoonga needs all the help it can get. Contact them at www.whoonga.za.org.
Addendum: Video report here.


  1. How on earth does anyone come up with a formula like that?

  2. Is this true or a hoax like the American Jenkum epidemic? All the net info seems to be re-posts of a single source.

  3. "all the net" ???

    I found this in about 30 seconds - instead of searching "whoonga," I searched Durban+antiviral+abuse --


  4. OK so 'all' was a little broader than it could have been. I simply wasn't sure if it passed the sniff test. I noticed that it didn't have a Snopes listing but most of the other search results seemed to be echoes of the same article. The reference you added in your response certainly seems to provide credibility. Thanks, I enjoy your blog and read it regularly.

  5. I immediately thought of the jenkem hoax when I read this article too. Thanks Minnesotastan for posting that abcnews article.

    what a world.


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