Whoonga: Potential recreational use of HIV antiretroviral medication in South Africa

David J. Grelotti, Elizabeth F. Closson, Jennifer A. Smit, Zonke Mabude, Lynn T. Matthews, Steven A. Safren, David R. Bangsberg, Matthew J. Mimiaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Whoonga is a drug cocktail in South Africa rumored to contain illicit drugs and HIV antiretroviral (ARV) medication. Although its use may adversely impact adherence to HIV treatment and may have the potential to generate ARV resistance, there is a paucity of research characterizing whoonga. We learned of whoonga during semi-structured interviews about substance abuse and HIV risk at "club-events" known as inkwaris in an urban township of Durban, South Africa. Whoonga was an emerging theme spontaneously identified as a problem for the community by 17 out of 22 informants. Perceptions of whoonga suggest that it is highly addictive, contains ARVs (notably efavirenz), is used by individuals as young as 14, and poses a threat to the health and safety of those who use it, including increasing the risk of HIV infection. Our informants provide preliminary evidence of the dangers of whoonga and reinforce the need for further study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-518
Number of pages8
JournalAIDS and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Antiretroviral diversion
  • Recreational HIV antiretroviral use
  • South Africa
  • Substance abuse
  • Whoonga and nyaope

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Whoonga: Potential recreational use of HIV antiretroviral medication in South Africa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this