Patients suffering from AIDS in South Africa are unable to get right quantities of their lifesaving drugs so that they can be mixed with marijuana and smoked, say authorities and health experts.
The mixture is called 'whoonga'.
Whoonga smokers may be fooling themselves into believing the AIDS drugs are giving them a high, when it's really some other ingredient, said Njabulo Mabaso, an AIDS expert.
Some drug dealers are suspected of stretching the whoonga mixture with soap powder and even rat poison to increase their profits.
"We are seeing the use of whoonga in communities and its very widespread. It's a substance that is openly spoken about in communities," the Daily Mail quoted Lihle Dlamini of the Treatment Action Campaign, as saying.
Thamsanqa Langa of Durban said he didn't know what whoonga was when dealers first started offering the cream-coloured powder at about three dollars a smoke.
But after a few days he started having powerful headaches, stomach pains and night sweats. When he went back to dealers, "They said, 'You need to smoke more, keep on smoking," recalled Langa.
Vincent Ndunge, a police spokesman in KwaZulu-Natal, said whoonga was first noticed two or three years ago when officers found gangs were robbing people of medication as they left hospitals.
Initially users crushed the pills and smoked them straight, but added other substances later, said Ndunge.