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HIV drugs reportedly used to fatten pigs and chickens in Uganda

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In a shocking revelation, it has come to light that HIV and Aids medicine has been used to fatten up animals in Uganda, BBC reports.

The country’s National Drug Authority has admitted that it was aware of this practice back in 2014 but failed to inform the public about the potential health risks associated with consuming meat from these animals.

HIV drugs reportedly used to fatten pigs and chickens in Uganda
HIV drugs reportedly used to fatten pigs and chickens in Uganda.

Amos Atumanya, the senior drugs inspector at the NDA, revealed this information during a recent parliamentary hearing. He stated that anti-retrovirals, which are used to treat HIV and Aids in humans, were being given to pigs and chickens as a means to enhance their growth. However, he also pointed out that consuming small quantities of these drugs through food could be dangerous for humans.

The NDA, however, has tried to downplay Atumanya’s comments. A spokesperson for the authority stated that if there was indeed a health risk, they would have issued a public warning. The spokesperson also emphasized that the NDA’s role is to regulate drugs and not food or animal feed.

A recent report by Makerere University, a prestigious institution in Uganda, found that more than a third of chicken and 50% of pork samples tested contained traces of anti-retroviral drugs. These samples were sourced from markets in the capital city, Kampala, as well as the northern city of Lira.

During the parliamentary hearing, Atumanya revealed that the NDA had conducted an investigation into the use of anti-retrovirals in animal farming back in 2014. However, despite publishing a report on the matter, they chose not to issue a public warning in order to avoid damaging the country’s food exports.

Atumanya explained, “We were trying to find other means in which we could manage that situation without blowing it out of proportion.” This admission raises concerns about the NDA’s priorities. While their main objective is to regulate drugs, the potential risks associated with consuming meat from animals treated with HIV drugs should not be ignored.

Consuming anti-retroviral drugs unknowingly poses significant health risks. These drugs are specifically designed for human use and have specific dosages and side effects that may not be suitable for animals or safe for humans when taken in animal-derived products.

The use of HIV drugs for animal fattening purposes also raises ethical concerns. These medicines are meant to save lives and improve the health of individuals living with HIV and Aids. Diverting them for non-medical purposes not only compromises their intended use but also poses risks to human health.

According to a study conducted by Makerere University’s College of Health Sciences, one respondent mentioned that pigs given anti-retroviral drugs experience accelerated growth and weight gain, leading to quick sales. However, Mr. Atumanya expressed concerns about the potential risks for humans who consume this meat and subsequently become infected with HIV. He explained that consuming such meat could result in the development of resistance to these anti-retroviral drugs, which could pose challenges if they are needed in the future.

Uganda currently has around 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS, as reported by the United Nations. The NDA previously investigated the use of anti-retrovirals in treating African swine fever (also known as Pig Ebola), which is incurable at present. They also verified claims that ARVs were being utilized for treating Newcastle disease in chickens.

HIV drugs reportedly used to fatten pigs and chickens in Uganda
HIV drugs reportedly used to fatten pigs and chickens in Uganda.

In response to Mr. Atumanya’s remarks, a spokesperson for the NDA defended the decision to not publicly disclose their findings. As per their mandate, the NDA focuses on regulating drugs rather than food or animal feeds. However, they assured that if there was any public health threat related to these specific drugs, they would promptly warn and inform the public.

The NDA remains devoted to its mission of ensuring access to safe, effective, and high-quality medicines for Ugandans. It has taken various measures to combat drug misuse, resulting in multiple arrests and prosecutions within this context.


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